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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Senator Barbara Boxer; Aggression vs. Agreement; Fight for Florida; Interview with Mike Rogers

Aired October 23, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, 14 days before the election, President Obama lays out his vision for a second term. But does his 20-pledge plan add up? Plus, the aggressor versus the agreer (ph). We saw two really different styles during last night's debate. Whose strategy worked?

And Apple unveiled a thinner, lighter, smaller iPad. But is it its price tag maxi? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the big reveal. Today, President Obama unveiled his plan for the next four years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks who are still not convinced, they can look right here and find out what it is I intend to do in a second term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. That booklet in his hand, I've got it here, it's a new 20-page glossy from the Obama campaign, laying out the president's policies. Now they put a lot of time and effort into this glossy thing, because 3.5 million copies are going to be mailed to swing state households, millions more are going to be given out door to door. And that's not all. The campaign also released a new 60- second ad today airing in those nine key battleground states.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But we've made real progress. And the last thing we should do is turn back now. Here's my plan for the next four years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So what new information warranted this big campaign rollout just two weeks before Election Day? Well, nothing, really. And the campaign admits as much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA SENIOR CAMPAIGN ADVISER (via phone): Obviously, a lot of people have made up their minds. There is a small universe of voters who haven't. We want to make sure that those voters have access to the information they need to make the judgment as to which direction they want to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So what we've really got is a fancy repackaging of ideas that we've heard before, and some of the pages here, reviving American manufacturing, energy made in America, growing small businesses, putting you in charge of your health care. These are familiar topics. But here's the problem. Some of these ideas still don't add up. So let's take the core of it. The president's tax and deficit plan.

According to the glossy, and I'll read it here. President Obama's plan reduces the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade. How, you might ask? Well, first, the president includes $1 trillion in spending cuts already signed into law last year. So those are cuts already on the books, no matter who is in the Oval Office. So maybe then it's three trillion.

But next the president says the plan makes sure that millionaires aren't paying lower tax rates than many middle class families. Now, to that end the president plans to let the Bush tax cuts expire for households making above $250,000 a year. According to the Joint Committee on taxation, that would reduce the deficit by just $829 billion over the next 10 years. Not even a quarter of the four trillion that the president says he's going to guarantee.

Now the president also says he'll get there by cutting corporate loopholes and cutting spending. Now of course, he doesn't say what loopholes or what spending. Sound familiar?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You say that you're going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions, without naming what those loopholes and deductions are. And then somehow you're also going to deal with the deficit that we've already got. The math simply doesn't work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Hmmm. All right. Let's take a look at one more aspect of the president's plan as laid out in today's glossy. The president will commit -- would commit half of the money saved from responsibly ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to reducing the deficit, and the other half to putting Americans back to work, rebuilding roads, bridges, runways and schools here in the United States. All right. The problem is here's what the president said just a couple of weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: One of the main reasons we went from record surpluses into record deficits is because we put two wars and two credit -- two -- and two tax cuts on a credit card.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: All right. That's right. The money spent in Afghanistan and Iraq was largely borrowed. The president's word, put on a credit card. And he even wrote that in his glossy. So how can the president save the money which was borrowed in the first place, and how can he save money that he never intended to spend since the administration has long said it would end those wars? It doesn't add up.

Senator Barbara Boxer is a Democrat of California and Senator, we appreciate your taking the time. I know you're out on the campaign trail, fighting for the president today. Let me just ask you this question --

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: And --

BURNETT: -- though about and start with these issues --

BOXER: And Congresswoman --

BURNETT: -- defense.

BOXER: And Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. I wanted to make sure you knew I was also out in Nevada campaigning for Shelley Berkley --

BURNETT: Yes.

BOXER: -- who we're trying to make a senator from the House. First, I have to say the president did put the wars back on budget. So it is true that George W. had them off budget. They're on budget, so that criticism is wrong. Let me tell you how I respond to everything you said and I listened to it intently.

BURNETT: Yes.

BOXER: I've run 11 successful elections for myself. They're hard. They're difficult. But it is true at the end you still have those undecideds. And even though President Obama, as you point out, has talked about these ideas -- for example, one you didn't mention is taking away tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas. The reason he wants to put this together is because they're still undecided, and the Republicans are complaining where's the beef, where's the plan. So he put it together in a book and I think that's a smart idea for those who are undecided.

BURNETT: Right and I mean -- I see your point. As David Axelrod said, there aren't many of them, but if this is going to help them make up their mind it makes sense for the president.

BOXER: Yes.

BURNETT: But what about this question?

BOXER: Yes.

BURNETT: He says in the glossy half the money saved from ending the wars is going to go to reducing the deficit. The other half to putting Americans back to work --

BOXER: Yes.

BURNETT: -- rebuilding roads. But it's borrowed money. Once it's not spent, he would have to borrow money to do those other things.

BOXER: Well, I'm just going to take issue with you. The money for the wars, when President Obama took office he stopped the sham and those went on budget. So they're actually savings here. So, yes, you know, it just -- it just -- it really makes sense if you think about it. We're spending so many billions abroad --

BURNETT: Well, I understand they're in the budget. They're in the budget --

BOXER: He wants to bring --

BURNETT: Right.

BOXER: Yes.

BURNETT: But in the budget --

BOXER: So my point is --

BURNETT: -- doesn't mean on the budget. You know what I'm saying?

BOXER: It doesn't -- I don't think -- well, let me just tell you what I know. What I know is we've been spending a lot of money rebuilding other countries and the president is right. It is time to rebuild our country. I'm the chairman of a committee. I'm very fortunate. I hope I keep the gavel that is in charge of building the roads and the bridges and the water systems and the sewer systems. We are so far away from doing what we need to do. You're -- you know the economy. You have to have a strong infrastructure to have a strong economy. You have to move people. You have to move goods. And you have to move them efficiently. The president is right to do that, so I don't know why people, yourself included would have a problem with this notion of bringing the money back and spending it here in America.

BURNETT: Right.

BOXER: I think it's smart. I'm for it --

BURNETT: I don't have a problem with it at all. I'm just saying --

BOXER: Good.

BURNETT: I'm just saying is he saying that he's going to be borrowing the money to do that, right? Because he's saying money that --

BOXER: No, he's not.

BURNETT: -- wars are ending, they're not going to be spending, and when they were in the wars we were borrowing it. So he's saying I'm going to spend half of it on ending -- on the deficit and half of it on rebuilding the roads. So if you want to rebuild the roads --

BOXER: Well you could say that --

BURNETT: -- I guess that a lot of people applaud that. Would you support borrowing the money?

BOXER: No. No, you could say that every single thing we do is borrowed. That makes no sense at all. The fact is the wars are on the budget. They are budgeted. Instead of budgeting for the wars, we're saying we're going to take half of that money, reduce the deficit, take the other half and invest it in our people, in education, in job training, in building roads and bridges and highways. And yes, we're going to ask the people at the top to pay a fair share like they did under Bill Clinton when we created 23 million jobs and balanced the budget. So I'm really glad he put together this book. And I think it's important for those people who haven't really followed everything and who are inundated with these negative commercials from every side they can actually take a look at this and see what the president wants to do in the next four years.

BURNETT: And let me ask you this of the overall -- the number and let's take the four trillion --

BOXER: Sure.

BURNETT: -- just because that's the number he put out there.

BOXER: Yes.

BURNETT: You know obviously, when he took office, he said he was going to cut the deficit in half. The economy did not help him and that's a big part of the reason why he didn't and that's fair to notice. But when you look at -- obviously, we've been running trillion-dollar deficits since then. Even if you keep our debt firm where it is right now and it doesn't grow and of course it is growing, but at 16 trillion, his four trillion is only a quarter of that. So now he's saying from going -- saying he's going to cut it in half, we're only cutting it in a quarter off, a much bigger number. Is that right? I mean do you support that?

BOXER: Well let me talk about -- let me talk about what the president says. The president has a plan to cut $4 trillion and you're absolutely right in your other comments. A trillion has been cut and believe me that was painful. I had to vote for those cuts. A lot of them broke my heart. But he has shown that he is willing to do that. And he has laid out a very clear plan to get to the other three trillion. Now, if you look at Mitt Romney, he wants to spend two trillion more on the military than the military wants to spend. He wants to give tax breaks to the people at the very top, billionaires, millionaires, you name it. He doesn't want to take away tax breaks from people who ship jobs overseas. So he has no plan whatsoever, so one could argue that the president's $4 trillion plan will be tough to do. I believe he will do it. He's a man of his word. When he says something he does it.

BURNETT: All right. Well thank you very much, Senator. We appreciate your coming on and making the case for him tonight. Thanks for your time. And still to come, Mitt Romney played it cool while President Obama was on the attack last night. Which style won your vote?

Plus, the two candidates squared off over how and when to deal with Iran and the threat of a nuclear weapon. One candidate says it's about capability, the other about actually having the weapon. Does that difference matter? And sent to prison for what six scientists did days before a devastating earthquake. Does that add up?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, different styles, but very little daylight between the candidates on the topic of foreign policy during last night's debate as Mitt Romney appeared to agree with the president on a lot of things, from Syria to the war on terror.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you go beyond what the administration would do, like, for example, would you put in no-fly zones over Syria?

ROMNEY: I don't -- I don't want to have our military involved in Syria. It's widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it. I want to underscore the same point the president made, which is that if I'm president of the United States -- when I'm president of the United States we will stand with Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you have stuck with Mubarak?

ROMNEY: No, I believe, as the president indicated and said at the time that I supported his action there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Bill Burton is a senior strategist for Priorities USA. It's the Super PAC supporting President Obama and Rick Grenell, who served as a foreign policy adviser for Mitt Romney is also with me tonight. All right, good to see both of you. Rick, let me start with you. A lot of conservatives were not happy with all of that agreement. Glenn Beck, for example, tweeted -- I'll quote it. "I'm glad to know that Mitt agrees with Obama so much. No, really, why vote?" Was this part of Romney's strategy to agree so much or do they really have similar positions on all of those things? RICHARD GRENELL, FMR. FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER FOR MITT ROMNEY: You know I think the race is tightening, and Governor Romney has clearly got the momentum. And he showed last night that he's willing to step across the aisle like he did in Massachusetts and find common ground. I thought it was really amazing that here we have Mitt Romney trying to find common ground, and President Obama and all of his surrogates, all they can do is attack the common ground. No wonder we're having so many problems in Washington. We have one candidate who is really trying to find common ground but is being made fun of for it. You would think that the president of the United States would say, hey, this is great common ground, let's build on this, not do attack ads the next day. I mean it's really I think showing that the Obama campaign is desperate.

BURNETT: And I want to show the attack ads in just a moment. But Bill, let me ask you this. On the issue of substance, one of Romney's objectives clearly, right, was to prove he could do the job of commander-in-chief. That's what he wanted to walk out proving he could do. The CNN poll, 60 percent of the people watching that debate walked out saying yes, he could have the job of commander-in-chief, 38 percent said no. The number of -- said Obama could handle the job was 63 percent. When looked at that way that's sort of frightening for you, isn't it?

BILL BURTON, FMR. WHITE HOUSE DEP. PRESS SECRETARY: I think the fact that Mitt Romney has fumbled the ball every time he has talked about foreign policy kept the bar pretty low for him in anything that he needed to do when he walked out on that stage. Now the problem for Mitt Romney, if you listen to what Rick said, which is kind of hilarious, national security debates are about strength. And Mitt Romney wasn't able to show any leadership. He didn't show strength. What he said was me too. You know I like what President Obama does on this. I like what he does on that. And that's fine, it's good that he agrees, but an election is about choices and if there is no real choice between the two candidates, if the challenger just basically agrees with the incumbent then what's the point in changing horses midstream?

BURNETT: Oh, horses, we're going to talk about horses, huh? Horses and bayonets --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. Changing bayonets midstream?

GRENELL: I mean here's the problem, Erin, is that you know the Obama campaign has spent millions of dollars and spent six months trying to define Mitt Romney as something extreme. And what you see in each debate is he's not extreme. He really wants to reach out and find common ground. There are clear differences. There's no question there are clear differences. But to make fun as you saw Bill doing, this is no wonder we have problems in Washington. We need somebody who is going to reach across the aisle, find common ground and move forward.

BURNETT: I want to talk about style, Bill. Your boss, your former boss, the guy you're fighting for had a very different --

BURTON: Our president.

BURNETT: -- presentation last night. Yes, let me just -- let me play -- let me play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go under water, nuclear submarines. When I went to Israel as a candidate I didn't take donors. I didn't attend fund-raisers. I went to (INAUDIBLE), the Holocaust Museum there. When it comes to our foreign policy you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980's just like the social policies of the 1950's and the economic policies of the 1920's. I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you've offered an opinion, you have been wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: John McCain, Bill, said that some of these were cheap shots. What's your response to that?

BURTON: I'm surprised John McCain didn't like the president's performance in the debate last night. I'm not sure that he ever really has. You know look, what the president did was he took serious foreign policy issues and he talked about them in a way that was memorable, that people would take away the information from the debate and know something about what had transpired. Now what Mitt Romney says about ships and the Navy is foolish. The notion that you can measure the strength of our Navy by lining up all of our ships in the harbor and counting them it's just silly. Now on the issue of whether or not these debates are about finding common ground, you know, being commander-in-chief is about providing leadership. It's not necessarily about providing common ground. It's about providing a clear direction. Mitt Romney's problem is that he's never been able to do that.

BURNETT: Quick final word.

GRENELL: You know I think that's a silly argument. I think we've got to have a president who can find common ground, move us forward. That's the whole problem with Washington and I think Mitt Romney has demonstrated that he knows how to do it.

BURNETT: All right thanks very much to both of you. We will see, two weeks to go and OUTFRONT next, we go to Florida where John Avlon is touring the state, talking to a small group of voters who literally could decide the entire election. And Apple, they already changed the tablet world when they had the iPad. Have they done it again or not?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Our third story, OUTFRONT, on the road again. With exactly two weeks until Election Day, the candidates are making their final pitch to key voters in key counties and those crucial battleground states. And this morning, President Obama campaigned in Florida and here's why. I mean this is kind of amazing. The latest CNN poll shows a dead heat, 49 percent of likely voters supporting Mitt Romney, 48 supporting President Obama. Florida is a state that both candidates desperately need to win in order to get to that magic 270 electoral votes.

And of course CNN is along for the ride. OUTFRONT tonight John Avlon, who is traveling to key battleground states aboard CNN's Election Express. This evening he's in Lakeland, Florida, a city that sits literally in the heart of the I-4 corridor, which is known for swing voters. So it's not just a swing state, John. It's the swing voters in that swing state. What are they telling you?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, we've been talking to them today. It's fascinating. First of all one of them said that last night's debate did help her make up her mind. We've said -- heard folks say for President Obama there's a since of frustration. A former Obama supporter said he hasn't been able to work with Congress. Ultimately it's his responsibility to get things done. He's the president. It doesn't matter how difficult Congress is. Another person who is going to be voting for President Obama instead of Mitt Romney says we need a president, not a boss (INAUDIBLE) might not get it done. But as you know, Erin, it's Florida, Florida, Florida. Bush won the state by 537 votes in 2000, 29 electoral votes total, the biggest prize in the big swing state this season.

BURNETT: And why Lakeland? Tell me what makes that area so important and such a toss-up.

AVLON: Sure. You know it's the I-4 corridor; the swing part of the "Sunshine State" is the center of the state stretching from Tampa Bay through Orlando over to the space coast and Lakeland is right in the heart of it. It's a more rural district. Polk County is more rural. But Lakeland has been hit hard by economic tough times. They had a big boom. Unemployment now nine percent ahead of the national average, where it was actually when President Obama took office. But that only tells part of the story.

This unemployment here spiked to 12.9 percent in November of 2009. So there is a recovery, but that refrain you hear over and over, it hasn't been fast enough. And it reinforces something we've seen in the CNN poll, Erin, how tight this is. President Obama and Mitt Romney tied among Independent voters and suburban voters. That tells you just how tight the "Sunshine State" is right now.

BURNETT: All right. That's how we like it. It's good for the countdown. Thanks to John Avlon. And of course we're going to be checking in with John as he travels with the CNN Election Bus across the country. To learn more about where he'll be making stops, see if there is one near where you are, go to our blog, CNN.com/OUTFRONT.

Well still to come, dealing with Iran. Both candidates talked tough last night, but are we running out of time for talk? A chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers is OUTFRONT next. Plus, why is a congressman running for re-election checking back into the Mayo Clinic?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the frontlines.

And we begin tonight with a sharp drop for stocks today. The Dow was down 243 points. The S&P lost nearly a percent and a half. Both indices are now trading at a seven-week low. These are big drops and the reason is disappointing results in terms of quarterly earnings.

Analysts at S&P Capital IQ say that third quarter reports for S&P 500 companies, their earnings are going to grow by just 0.04 percent this quarter. That's a bad number. It, in fact, is the worst since the third quarter of 2009. It's a pretty grim verdict on the state of the economy right now.

We did, though, get some good news from Facebook after the bell. The world's biggest social network reported results that came in just above expectations.

Representative -- doctors at a British hospital say teenage activist Malala Yousufzai remains in stable condition. According to the hospital, Malala was visited by a Pakistani provincial minister who brought her some cards and flowers. Malala was shot by the Taliban two weeks ago for advocating the right of girls to get an education.

And Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. is on his way back to the Mayo Clinic to receive a second round of treatment for bipolar disorder. Congressman Bobby Rush spoke with Jackson and tells OUTFRONT that Jackson expressed a tremendous desire to get back to work. He said Jackson teared up, because he feels he is letting people down.

You may remember, Jackson first announced in June he was taking a medical leave. Congressman Rush, though, insists Jackson doesn't need to rush to a decision about his political future, even though those vying for Jackson's congressional seat think otherwise. Both the Republican and independent candidates running for that seat have suggested that Jackson step aside.

Well, it has been 446 days since this country lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

And now our fourth story OUTFRONT: tough talk on Iran. Both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney say Iran will not get a nuclear weapon under their watch. But who is a better approach to dealing with the rogue nation? Last night's debate, it was pretty tough to tell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They laid out seven steps, crippling sanctions were number one. And they do work. You're seeing it right now in the economy.

It's absolutely the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier, but it's good that we have them.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps we're taking. There have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you would do the same things we did you but you would say them louder and somehow that would make a difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: President Obama says his policies are working, pointing to Iran's crumbling currency, which has dropped as much as 80 percent over the last year, oil exports at a 20-year low. Governor Romney meanwhile though says we're four years closer to a nuclear Iran.

Representative Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and he's OUTFRONT tonight.

Chairman, good to see you as always.

Let me start with this. There isn't a big difference between the president and Governor Romney, at least when they talk about Iran. They both want sanctions, they don't want them to have a nuclear weapon.

But based on your intelligence that you receive, how close is Iran to that capability, to use that crucial word, to build a nuclear weapon, if that's what they want? Of course, they say that's not what they want.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Yes, it's pretty clear. I don't think anyone denies the fact that they're working toward a nuclear weapon. And I think European intelligence services, clearly our relationship with the Israelis, others, even others in the Middle East, will tell you, intelligence services will tell you, they're well on their way to get a nuclear weapon.

Here's the thing. They hit a very important milestone in the pursuing of a nuclear weapon, Erin. They hit that magic 20 percent enrichment rate.

BURNETT: Yes.

ROGERS: So from zero percent to 20 percent really difficult to do, very hard to do. They have had some problems, had some equipment failures and other things. But they have hit that 20 percent. That means from 20 to the 90-plus that they need for highly enriched uranium, much easier to do. So they have crossed that very important hurdle. They're moving centrifuges into a facility, which is why all of this angst is in Israel, into a facility that's underground. So we believe they have enough centrifuges to -- and are on target to have enrichment capability for multiple bombs.

So, that's what the concern is, and the timeline problem here is this -- the Israelis will tell you, they believe if it goes much longer, they may or may not be able to impact the program. In other words, slow it down by --

BURNETT: Right.

ROGERS: -- military strikes or other things. So that's why all of this angst over Iran, this timeline, this window, is getting smaller.

BURNETT: And, I mean, I guess the hope still, it seemed from both the president and the governor, is that sanctions will work. And that's why I wanted to ask you this. One thing that sort of is shocking is that the top four buyers of Iranian crude oil are still buying it. We're talking about Japan, China, India and Korea. And they're doing it with the blessing of the U.S. State Department.

China is now buying half of Iran's daily output. So, yes, sanctions have hurt them. Yes, their oil exports have plunged, but the biggest buyers are still buying.

And I'm wondering why that is, that the U.S. government gives those free passes. Is it because we just can't get China to do what we want?

ROGERS: Well, China is certainly not going to cooperate with the United States in any way on Iran. They have other deals there. So they need that petroleum.

Remember, China has to grow at about 8 percent a year, just to meet their social demands on their government spending. So they're not going to pay attention to us. They haven't been very helpful in trying to slow down the Iranian program. Russia has also not been very helpful on trying to slow down the Iranian program. So they're not going to help us.

The other countries that got waivers was a little bit concerning, that the administration thought, well, we're going to be tough, but we're going to give these waivers. And you know, to -- that other side of that coin is that these countries said it would be so crippling to their economy, because they take such a high percentage of Iranian oil that they wouldn't be able to survive it economically.

So that's the problem you have. But here's the thing, we have to remember --

BURNETT: Yes.

ROGERS: -- we sanctioned North Korea almost to starvation. They are well on their way. And in fact, we believe they have weapons- grade enriched uranium today.

So it can't just be sanctions. It has to be at least the threat -- I'm just talking about the threat -- and Iran has to believe it, that all options were on the table.

And here's the problem. Israel doesn't believe the U.S. is serious, and neither does Iran. That has been the biggest problem in why you see this Israeli-American -- at least fighting with the administration over this.

BURNETT: Right. Do you think, though, then, we're going to end up in a position where we have to make a choice in military action? Obviously, if Iran is still getting money from those buyers of oil, and there's a lot of companies that operate here in the U.S., by the way, like Samsung, that operate in Iran, we don't stop that either, that they're going to keep getting closer, then we're going to have to make good on that threat.

And I think Iran is aware of what we're all aware of, every viewer of this interview is aware of, which is the American people don't want war.

ROGERS: Yes, again, you -- there's a whole series of options other than war. And I think that's the mistake here, is that the talk is -- well, it's either war or just sanctions or you can't have anything in between. There is a whole series of options, Erin, that a president would have available to him and whoever that is come November 6th. I have my choice.

But after November 6th, whoever the president is, is going to have a whole series of options they can do, well short of war, but would have, you know, some impact there into the program. Now, Israel, remember, they have Egypt that is no longer a reliable partner in the south. They have Hezbollah becoming more anxious, has 30,000 missiles pointed at Israel. Hamas has been engaged in activity in the Sinai.

They feel like they are under siege, and they can't afford to let Iran get a nuclear weapon. We think -- I think -- I believe there are capabilities we can engage in, short of war, believe me, that can help slow the program down, that we are just a little short of doing, I think.

BURNETT: Do you think that bombing those key facilities, whether it's Parchin or Fordow, is that short of war, in your opinion, or would that spark a war? If we use one of those, you know, massive ordinance, penetrators, 30,000 ton bombs that could actually penetrate deep under the ground, where as you say they have been placing some of their facilities?

ROGERS: Well, again, I would be cautious of -- short of war. I will say that --

BURNETT: So that's not -- that would be war. OK.

ROGERS: Well, in very targeted strikes, we use very targeted strikes against al Qaeda. And so if it is a very targeted strike, many would argue that that is one -- that's short of war. And if it only seeks to go after their nuclear program, that is -- we're not talking about invasions or naval engagements or troops on the ground, none of that. And this has been used by other -- President Clinton used this tactic.

But there's also other things under that. I'm not saying that's -- that is the right answer. That is an option that I believe is short of war if it is very selective, very targeted, only to the nuclear program. And we do know, those -- that the Iranians believe that there is a whole panoply of options -- war and then these targeted strikes they don't see as -- wouldn't see as an act of war.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Chairman, thanks. Always good to talk to you. Appreciate your time.

And ahead, Election Day is exactly two weeks away. Can you believe it is finally here? And who wins who will likely come down to a few key states. So, how do candidates get to that crucial 270 electoral votes? And should that person win the presidency, even if he doesn't win the popular vote?

And six scientists have been sentenced to prison for failing to make a big prediction. Does the sentence add up?

And the new iPad, it is mini-sized. But is it maxi-priced?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Another big day for the Apple army. The iPad Mini is finally here, and apparently there are a few cracks in Apple's famous wall of secrecy, because almost all of the leaks turned out to be true.

The new iPad is made of aluminum instead of plastic. It is as thin as a pencil, as light as a pad of paper, but still has a 7.9-inch screen. It does sound like we're talking about Superman. Anyway, it's 0.9 inches more than the other tablets on the market.

And Apple executives in fact spent the launch today explaining why that makes their product better, and they had a whole list of all the reasons the Mini is the max.

Which brings me to tonight's number: $329. That's the price of the cheapest version of the iPad mini. Now, it better be pretty maxy, because that price is $130 more than the $199 7-inch models offered by Google and Samsung and $170 more than the Kindle Fire.

Going to today's announcement, a number of analysts said Apple would price their new Mini at a significantly lower price to try to compete. But they didn't do it. Apparently, Apple is confident the price will not be a sticking point for consumers hungry for the new Apple product, regardless of how it stacks up.

And you know what? They could be right. Because in the past two-and-a-half years, Apple has sold more than 100 million iPad's and 60 percent of the people who responded to our online survey said they'd take a look at the Mini.

So what's your tablet of choice? Will you buy the iPad mini, even at a maxi price? Let us know at CNN.com/OutFront.

And now, we want to get to our "Outer Circle", where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And tonight, we go to Italy, where six scientists and a government official have been sentenced to prison time for failing to predict an earthquake that struck the town of L'Aquila in 2009. The earthquake experts around the world, they're really appalled by this decision, because the scientists are going to prison for six years on manslaughter charges.

Ben Wedeman is in Rome and I asked him how this happened.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's behind this sentence, Erin, is some very angry people in the Italian town of L'Aquila who believed what the authorities said when they said there is no threat or risk of a major earthquake after a series of tremors hit that town. Instead, in the early morning hours of the 6th of April, a 6.3 strength earthquake hit that medieval town, killing more than 300 people, essentially destroying what was a town of 70,000 people. And the judge said, because of those incorrect forecasts, the scientists who made them must be punished -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Thanks to Ben Wedeman.

Now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: the path to victory. There are two polls out tonight in battleground states, Nevada and New Hampshire, and they show a statistical tie. And with just two weeks left, both campaigns have to make tough choices on what states to pursue. You know, to put all their ad money in, and the most precious thing they have, the time of their candidates, so they can rack up 270 electoral votes.

Now, according to our electoral map, the president leads at 237 to Romney's 191. One state crucial to both campaigns is Virginia, which is where we find our chief national correspondent, John King, tonight.

And, John, let's go through this from each side. First of all, what's the Obama path to victory?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you start, Erin, what you just did, with the president 237 strong or leaning his way. Let's assume nothing else on the map changes, excuse me. The president could get it just by camping out in the Midwest.

If he wins Iowa, wins Wisconsin and wins Ohio, that's 34 right there. That would get him to 271. So that's the president's most obvious path. Get it out in the heartland in the Midwest. Now, Iowa, though, is a pretty close state. The president has a lead in Wisconsin. The Republicans say it's close enough.

But let's say the president is more comfortably ahead in Wisconsin, he's plus one or two in Ohio right now. Iowa is viewed as a toss-up. If the president can't get Iowa, that's when he would look for back-up plan, maybe Nevada, maybe New Hampshire, maybe where I am in Virginia. But the most obvious path is camp out in the Midwest and get it there.

BURNETT: All right. What about Mitt Romney? I mean, that seems to be more -- a more convoluted path at the least, right?

KING: Well, it's harder, because he starts at 191, not 237. So simple math tells you, he's got a harder path to get there.

Here's how he gets there. Number one, he needs the state of Florida, 29 electoral votes there. He needs North Carolina and most likely Virginia, as well. If he does that, that gets him to 248. Florida, North Carolina, Virginia gets him to 248.

Then add in the 18 in Ohio, no Republican has won without it, that gets him to 266. At that point, Governor Romney could win any other state.

Now, he still thinks Iowa is in play for him. He thinks New Hampshire where he has a vacation home might be in play. The Republicans at the moment think they're ahead in Colorado, tied in Nevada.

So he has to do Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and one more from there. If he can't get Virginia, this state is a toss-up state. Then he would have to cobble it together with say Colorado and maybe Wisconsin.

But the most obvious path, they call it 3-2-1. Win the three Republican states, most Republican states, Indiana, which we think he already has, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, and one more.

BURNETT: All right. So is it possible, and when you talk to the campaigns, and the expert that you are yourself -- is it possible for someone to win the popular vote in this case and lose the electoral?

KING: Yes. Ask George W. Bush and Al Gore. It's possible. It's only happened four times in the lifetime times in the lifetime of our great republic but it did happen 12 years ago. So it can happen.

Al Gore eked out a little more than a half million votes edge in the popular vote but lost the presidency when George W. Bush won the contested Florida election and got those electoral votes back.

So it is possible and people looking at the race this time, the statisticians say they think it's slightly more likely Mitt Romney could win the popular vote, President Obama wins the Electoral College. In this close of a race it's conceivable Mitt Romney could win the popular vote and President Obama could win in the Electoral College.

Do the campaigns think that's likely? No. Do they think it's possible? Yes. And, Erin, one of the things we need to be prepared for if the election stays this close, a lot of lawyers involved the morning after.

BURNETT: Yes. Well, you know, first thing let's do, let's kill all the lawyers, right?

All right. Thanks to John King.

Well, as John was talking about, the election does center on nine tossup states. You heard him going through the different paths to victory for each side here. But those states -- well, you know what they show, maybe all voters are not created equal. New York, California and Texas, they are three of the biggest states yet the candidates don't go to them except to raise money, because well, we know who voters are going to cast their ballots for in those states.

So shouldn't we reform the way we pick a president?

John Samples is director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute.

Good to see you, sir.

And as you heard John King going through this, he said they don't think it's probable you could have one win the popular vote and the other win the electoral but it's possible, and obviously, it did happen with Al Gore. So -- I mean, I guess I struggle with this one because in my head I feel like when there's a conflict between the two, shouldn't the will of the people, the popular vote, win?

JOHN SAMPLES, THE CATO INSTITUTE: Well, I mean, in the Constitution, and that's the rules of the game as we go in, there's another system established which is that the states have a role to play in all of this, as well as population in each of the states.

So going into it, both candidates and Americans know what the rules are. So when the outcome comes, I don't think there's any great sense of unfairness.

There is a larger question whether we should have a constitutional amendment to go to direct election, but I don't think we should do that with the idea that a lot of these states that are being neglected now are over the long term, going to get a lot more attention. A recent study showed over the last 50 years that only 40 percent of the states would get more attention if we had been under direct election since about 1950 or so.

So there's not a really -- remember, things change over time and I suspect that actually the changes we think would happen in the states that are neglected now would also be neglected or might get more attention in the future. There's no clear majority among the states for moving to direct election. BURNETT: And let me ask you this question. Because there was a Gallup poll, 62 percent of Americans said, this was a poll from last year, said they want to replace the electoral system with a popular vote. I understand you've got -- you're hesitant to do that.

Let me just ask you this. If you live in Texas and you vote Democrat and the presidential election, you may feel your vote doesn't matter, why bother. In the same way you might feel if you're a Republican in the state of California.

So that's why people feel that way. I mean, is there a reform that would adjust for that or you think it doesn't make sense?

SAMPLES: Well, you have to remember that what we're talking about here is not caused by the constitutional way of electing the president, the so-called Electoral College. It's because the state legislatures, almost all of them, use what is called the winner take all system. That is the reason that Republicans don't get electoral votes in California and vice versa for Democrats in Texas is because those state legislatures have decided to award all the electoral votes to the person who gets the most electoral votes.

It's nothing about the Constitution. The state legislatures if they wanted to hear their voters, they could change this if they wanted to but only two have done so.

BURNETT: All right. Just one final question, I guess. The reality of this would be people would have to accept, I know right now, it's Republicans who think Mitt Romney could win the popular, lose the electoral. Well, if they think that's unfair, they would have to say look, they would have supported Al Gore for president, right?

SAMPLES: That's correct. Both sides have to understand going in that that's the way it is. I think they would and I think there was a lot of bitterness about George W. Bush but I'm not so sure it wasn't about what happened during his administration as much as the election itself.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much. Good to talk to you, sir. We appreciate it.

John has a great article, "Leave the Electoral College Intact." Go check it out. It's a very interesting op-ed for those interested in this topic.

And next, horses and bayonets got a lot of action last night. I mean, a lot of action. But voters were searching for another word during the debate that's very important to OUTFRONT.

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BURNETT: President Obama and Governor Romney covered a lot of ground at last night's foreign policy debate but there were a few moments that really resonated with viewers. During the debate, CNN's Peter Hamby actually monitored the most popular Google trends of the night to determine the lines, the ideas, the moments voters care about most.

And the top five searches of the night in order were horses and bayonets, Syria, Mali, drones and tumult, or as Mitt Romney says tumult, or he did say it rather strangely. But, seriously, a lot of people Googled horses and bayonets and tumult, we don't know why.

Thankfully, it wasn't just wordplay people latched on to. People took the time to learn more about the problems in Syria and the Obama administration's use of drones.

Both are important issues but something else we were very happy to see. A lot of people wanted to learn more about the crisis in Mali. We have covered the story a lot on the show. In July, we went to the country's border to report on what Amnesty International calls the largest human rights violation of the past 50 years.

The crisis in Mali sometimes gets ignored and I was happy to see it get air time that it deserves during last night's national debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali, by al Qaeda type individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Governor Romney mentioned Mali not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. And you know, Mali isn't just a base for the new al Qaeda. It is a humanitarian crisis. We hope that whomever wins will give Mali the attention it deserves.

For more about the crisis, please visit our site, CNN.com/OutFront.

And before we go, I'm in Los Angeles tonight to appear on tonight's "Conan." You can watch me and Coco at 11:00 p.m. on TBS.

Thanks for joining us. I'll see you back here tomorrow.

"A.C. 360" starts now.