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Latest Presidential Poll Shows Tight Race

Aired October 27, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

The furious final push to Election Day. We are with the candidate as they add new urgency to the campaigns. We are also in the states that could decide who the next president could be. The latest from the battle ground; that is coming up.

Plus, a weapons factory bombed in Sudan and why it might be the latest move in a shadow war between Israel and Iran.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in the SITUATION ROOM.

With just a week and a half until the election, the candidate right now are in a dead heat. They've been crisscrossing the country in a mad scramble to make a difference to get out the vote and sway the undecided. The Obama campaign is also calling in some of the heavy artillery. That would be the former president, Bill Clinton.

Here is CNN's White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Obama, there is no more powerful surrogate than President Clinton. Something he acknowledged to "Rolling Stone" in an interview released Thursday. The last time we had healthy broad-based growth was when he was president and people remember that. So he can say things that people immediately grab on to, Obama told the magazine. That's why Clinton stars in campaign ads.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama has a plan to rebuild America from the ground up.

KEILAR: He headlines fundraisers and rallies. This one last week with Bruce Springsteen. And for the first time Monday, he and President Obama will hit the campaign trail together visiting Florida, Ohio and Virginia, as they kick off the last whole week before Election Day.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: He has particular appeal in the African-American community and I would guess among suburban women. The kind of folks that are torn. I think Bill Clinton could enter this decision and be a significant asset for the president. KEILAR: Of course, it hasn't always been a rosy relationship. In May, Clinton undercut the Obama campaign's main argument that Mitt Romney's business experience does not qualify him to lead the country.

CLINTON: A man who's been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold.

KEILAR: And back in 2007, as then senators Hilary and Barack Obama went head to head in the Democratic primaries, Bill Clinton took aim at Obama's inexperienced.

CLINTON: I mean, when's the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running.

KEILAR: In early 2008, Obama won Iowa and entered in all out feud with the former first couple.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm here and he's not.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes.

KEILAR: But, fast forward four years, Clinton gave one of the most rousing speeches in support of Obama at the convention.

CLINTON: I want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside, but who burns for America on the inside.

KEILAR: Afterward, Obama joked about giving the popular former president a role in his cabinet.

OBAMA: Somebody tweeted that somebody needs to make him secretary of explaining things. Although, they didn't use the word things.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar. CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mitt Romney is trying to keep voters focused on the economy telling them he could do better than President Obama.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with the Romney campaign.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have been traveling with Romney campaign by bus across several swing states over the last few days, in Ohio and Iowa. And one thing we have heard from the GOP nominee, he has been debuting this new theme out on the campaign trail that he is the agent. He is the candidate of what he called big change and that the president is just more of what he calls the status quo.

Now, one thing that we can also report is the Romney campaign is right now sort of riding a wave of momentum, some recent polls, not just nationally but across several swing states have shown Romney gaining some traction and getting very close to overtaking the president in several key swing states and both nationally.

Now, the Romney campaign did put out a memo earlier in the week throwing cold water on one Ohio state poll they took issue with saying it wasn't properly calibrated. But, they are also at the same time touting a new "Washington Post" poll that showed Mitt Romney leading the president nationally and doing very well among independents.

Now, at the same time, we should p point out that along this tour across several swing states, he has hit a bit of a roadblock. One of his top surrogates, former New Hampshire governor, John Sununu, made some comments on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" when he suggested that former secretary of state Colin Powell was endorsing the president because of his race. Sununu later put out a statement saying that he now believes that Powell endorsed the president because of his policies. But nevertheless, another destruction at the Romney campaign.

But, it's not just the tough talk on the campaign trail that we're seeing that is causing things to get a little rocky out here. There is also the prospect of a major storm heading to the East Coast. What forecasters have dubbed "Franken storm." It has already caused the Romney campaign to reschedule a campaign event for Mitt Romney in Virginia on Sunday. No word on when it will be rescheduled -Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta. Thanks very much.

CNN's new poll shows a very tight race in the must-win state of Ohio. President Obama is ahead at 50 percent, Romney is at 46 percent. But the president's four-point lead falls within the poll's sampling error.

I'm joined now by CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our CNN contributor Ryan Lizza. He is the "New Yorker" magazine, Washington correspondent.

Guys, thanks very much.

Gloria, first to you. Who's got the edge right now and we are getting closer and closer.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's hard to say. Our head is exploding with all of these polls. But if you look at our -- let's take the state of Ohio, which is of course so key to both campaigns. It's very hard to see how Romney would win the presidency without winning Ohio, although they now say they could.

But, you look at the internals f our CNN poll, you see what you have been seeing all along which is that President Obama is up with women about 12 points, Mitt Romney up with men by 8 points. Romney has made some inroads in suburban areas. But in our poll, the president is up with independent voters by about five points.

What Romney needs to keep doing, to get the momentum or to continue a momentum that he had after the first debate is to get those voters out in the suburban areas, married women in particular, that could make the difference for him in the state of Ohio, which is so key. But as for overall momentum, Wolf, we are getting so many polls in every day, you talk to both campaigns and they say that their tracking is the best and their tracking shows them on the road to victory.

BLITZER: Ryan, where do you see the edge right now in that contest?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, just speaking about that Ohio poll quickly, Wolf. We now have 35 polls in a row and Romney has only led in three out of 35 including this new CNN poll in Ohio. So, it's one of the few battleground states where since his breakout first debate performance where he didn't see much momentum, unlike places like North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia where Romney's numbers really moved. Obama's small but consistent lead has been incredibly stubborn in Ohio.

You know, again, this weekend we are seeing this weird divergence. The national polls show it tied, maybe a slight, slight edge for Romney in the average of polls. But if you do the state-by- state breakdown, it's a very difficult path for Romney to win that Electoral College without Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, that sort of Midwest fortress that Obama seems to have.

BORGER: And of you look at Ohio, what is so interesting to me is that when the president made the decision on the auto bailout that was kind of unpopular in a lot of quarter and it now may be the auto bailout that actually saves him in the state of Ohio.

LIZZA: Absolutely. I remember doing reporting on that, Gloria and Wolf. And Austan Goolsbee from University of Chicago gave the pure economic arguments said don't do this.

BORGER: Right.

LIZZA: Political advisors guys like Robert Gibbs said Mr. President, we campaigned in these states, these people are getting killed. We have got to do this. Probably right, one of the most important decisions of his presidency.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: If he wins Ohio, I have been saying it for a while. It's going to be because he bailed out the auto industry.

LIZZA: Yes.

BLITZER: There are about 800,000 we estimate, Gloria, 800,000 undecided voters in these few remaining battle ground states. They are all working trying to convince them. What is going to convince them.

BORGER: It's really hard to say. When you talk to Republicans they tell you that late in the game, where we are, undecided voters will break towards the challenger. That's the Karl Rove theory. The Democrats say not necessarily. The undecided voters maybe some disaffected Democrats, but they will come back to the president in the end.

So, it's very hard is to say what's going to convince them, what's going to make them decide. And also, there is a possibility, Wolf, that these undecided voters, some of them may just decide to stay home. If they don't particularly like either of the candidates, they may decide to sit out the election.

BLITZER: You know, I want to play a couple of clips, Ryan, because the comments in Indiana by the Republican senatorial candidate, Richard Mourdock, generated a lot of buzz out there this week, reaction from the president potentially not only in Indiana, but national fallout. Listen to these exchanges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: I just -- I struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape; that it is something that God intended to happen.

OBAMA: We saw again this week, you don't want a bunch of politicians in Washington, most of whom are male, making health care decisions for women. Women can make those decisions themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ryan, usually, the presidential contest has ramifications as they say, down ballot. But in this particular case, down ballot in a Senate race could have ramifications on the national contest.

LIZZA: Yes. And add to that Akin's comment in Missouri that probably - that may have blown the Republican's chance of winning that important Senate seat in Missouri. And you know, I think these issues break through to the presidential level when they have a clear resonance with the policies of the guys on the top of the ticket. And that's why the Obama team has really hammered Romney on this.

But at the same time voters understand the difference between the Senate candidate's views and a presidential candidate's views and Romney and Mourdock, in the case of abortion rights, in the exception, in the case of rape, Romney's position is different than Mourdock. And I think the Romney campaign has been pretty clear about making that case.

BLITZER: Ryan Lizza, thanks so much.

By the way, Ryan has an excellent article in the new edition "the New Yorker" magazine. It is entitled "the final push." And I recommend highly to our viewers.

I also recommend something that Gloria is working on this weekend. You have got two programs, not one, two programs that are going to be airing, "Profile of Ann Romney" Saturday night, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, "the journey of Ann Romney." Then, your excellent documentary that you have updated. Romney revealed. Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern. You've been busy.

BORGER: Yes, I have.

BLITZER: Looking forward to have seen the pieces.

With the federal debt on the rise, the powerful CEOs are revealing what they're willing to help sacrifice to help balance America's books.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The presidential campaigns are sparring over a new report over economic growth. The Gross Domestic Product grew at a rate of two percent from July to September. The White House says that's the 13th straight quarter of positive growth and it shows the economy is moving in the right direction. The Romney campaign calls the modest increase, quote, "discouraging."

Several factors are weighing in on the economy with the election around the corner, including the enormous federal debt.

Lisa Sylvester has been taking a look at what's going on.

There is a group of high-powered executives, they have got some serious ideas.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. You know, something that we are hearing from CEOs across the country is that the current U.S. debt level is simply not sustainable anymore. Take a look at this.

The U.S. debt level has been growing steadily from 5.6 trillion in 2000 to 16 trillion in 2012. Business leaders are saying it's time for Democrats and Republicans to compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Bringing the bell of the New York stock exchange while sounding the alarm over the nation's growing debt. More than 80 of the country's largest CEOs are urging law makers to reach a bipartisan agreement to bring down the nation's debt level. They're pushing the controversial methods raising tax revenue, ending tax deductions and reducing spending on Medicaid and Medicare. Among them, David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell International.

DAVID COTE, CHAIRMAN, CEO, HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL: There needs to be compromise and compromise not being a dirty word, but rather being synonymous with governing. So yes, I recognize my taxes are going up. I haven't developed a table that says I will be willing to pay this much more if you are willing to cut this much more. I mean, who knows where that's going to go. But I would say most companies, most people expect that they're probably going to have to pay more.

SYLVESTER: An increasing number of CEOs are going on record that they're willing to pay more in taxes to avert the so-called fiscal cliff as part of a comprehensive plan. If Congress fails to act by January, it will trigger $600 billion worth of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that includes drastic cuts to defense spending. Businesses not certain of what lies ahead have been reluctant to increase pay rolls.

COTE: We stop hiring externally. We just, as jobs had thread, as people leave their positions, we don't fill those jobs. As you look at capital expenditures, we start to slow down our CAPEX spending. And you see most companies doing that now because when you run into an uncertain time, you just question everything.

SYLVESTER: And Colgate is cutting 230 workers. Ford is scaling back its European operations and laying-off 4300 people. HP is cutting 27,000 employees or eight percent of its total workforce.

Former senator Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff and Erskine Bowles offered a debt reduction find in 2010 that at the time, was penned by Congress and largely ignored by President Obama. But the campaign to fix the debt now sees the Simpson Bowles as a possible blueprint to fix the crisis.

MAYA MACGUINEAS, FIX THE DEBT: The polices to fix the problem are out there. The political will not so much yet. And so, we will get behind any plan that both parties, house Senate president can work together on and move forward hopefully in a really timely manner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And we received a statement from Senator Simpson who said he and Erskine Bowles are pleased there is a growing recognition among businesses and the public that something has to be done about the problem and he added quote, "fixing the debt will demand that Americans accept some sacrificing in the things they may like for the good of the country, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, good report. Thanks very much for that.

A weapons factory is bombed in Sudan. Why it could be the latest example of Israel's long reach in a shadow war with Iran.

Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A thousand miles from many frontlines between Israel or Hamas, mysterious explosions leveled an arms' factory in Sudan. Did Israel destroy weapons long before they could reach Gaza.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking in to that for us - Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are indications the Israelis may have done that. But if they did, this has a wider reach than just the fight between Israel and Hamas. Analysts say this is likely part of a wider covert war that also involves Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A series of big explosions overnight in the Sudanese capital. What was this facility?

COLONEL AL-SAWARMI KHALID SAAD, SUDANESE MILITARY SPOKESMAN (through translator): An explosion occurred in one of the ammunition depots at the military of industrialization arms' factory.

TODD: A weapon making factory called (INAUDIBLE). Witnesses in Khartoum tell CNN they saw planes above the facility at the time of the incident, Tuesday night. One said he saw a plane leading with bright lights, then, a second plain fired a rocket. Sudanese officials say two people were killed. The information minister says we think Israel did the bombing. CNN cannot independently verify that claim. There's a chance the Sudanese are not telling the truth given the history in the region of blaming Israel for many things. The Israelis aren't talking.

Here's Israel's defense minister.

EHUD BARACK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER (thought translator): I have nothing to say about that.

TODD: How do you interpret that remark?

MICHAEL EISENSTADT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAT EAST POLICY: The Israelis are not denying they were involved in this, so I take that as a kind of a wink, kind of semi acknowledgement.

TODD: Middle East security expert, Michael Eisenstadt says if the Israelis did this, it would be at latest chapter in what he calls a war in the shadows between the Israel and the U.S. on one side and Iran and its allies, like Sudan, on the other.

TODD: Eisenstadt and other analysts believe that Iran may have been assisting in the production of weapons at that factory in Khartoum (ph) or smuggling weapons through Sudan over land through Egypt to Gaza where they wind up in the hands of Israelis' enemy, the militant group, Hamas.

Leaked U.S. Diplomatic cable published by the group, Wiki Leaks, indicate U.S. and Israeli officials have also believed that. One cable from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv in April 2009 says of the weapons flow to Hamas, the Egyptians know that the arms pipeline runs from Iran to Sudan to Egypt.

I asked Eisenstadt, how effected the flow of weapons is?

EISENSTADT: It seems pretty clear Hamas is continuing to receive arms. And not just Hamas, these other groups, these more radical southeast jihadi groups, that are involved in shooting rockets at Israel. And so, the Iranians are trying to get arms from Libya to Gaza. They are getting arms from Sudan to Gaza.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Contacted by CNN, an official at Iran's mission to the U.N., strongly rejected what he called of those baseless allegations. We tried repeatedly but could not get Sudanese officials in Washington and at the U.N. to respond to the claims that their country is working with Iran to smuggle weapons to Hamas - Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting for us. Thank you.

Just a handful of counties could turn some of these states red or blue on Election Day. We're on the ground in the battle ground states.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: CNN is putting enormous resources into covering the final toss-up states that will decide this presidential election. We have reports from some of those battle ground states right now.

First let's go to Colorado where a new poll shows President Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat with 48 percent each.

Let's go to Miguel Marquez. He's been watching what's going on.

What are you seeing, Miguel? What are you hearing?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm hearing that it's very much the same as it's always been here in Colorado. People really turn between these two candidates. We're in suburban Denver right now to figure out what makes these voters tick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Here we are (INAUDIBLE) in Golden, Colorado. This is Jefferson County. It's one of the most competitive counties in this state. Both campaigns are working this county very hard. It's because as little as 20 or 30,000 votes across the entire state of Colorado could paint this state red or blue.

That's as little as one percent of the overall votes statewide.

So this is always the scariest bit of this.

SPENCER HENNIGAN, APEX EX ADVENTURE TRIPS: The first step is always the hardest.

MARQUEZ: Spencer has run Apex Ex adventure trips for two years. So this is the office.

HENNIGAN: True.

MARQUEZ: Not a bad office.

HENNIGAN: I like it.

MARQUEZ: Business has grown, starting with four guides, he now has 20. This year, the company's biggest, 3,000 trips. Everything from rappelling to back country skiing.

HENNIGAN: It's a lot of hard word.

MARQUEZ: The business expanded, he says, by keeping prices low and taking advantage of people Coloradoans staying close to home.

What do you hope for the next four years?

HENNIGAN: More people we can, you know, raise the bar for equal pay. You know, the more that we can feel inclusion in this state.

MARQUEZ: While some have weathered the recession well, Colorado continues to struggle. The unemployment rate across the state about eight percent. Here in Jefferson County it's about 7.4, just a little better. This is the new restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is it.

MARQUEZ: The Nunez family, all ten of them, pitching in on a new venture, a family restaurant. The restaurant draw authentic cuisine prepared by Gloria Nunez who moved here from Mexico City when she was 21.

How many recipes are in your head.

GLORIA NUNEZ, EL CHIGNON RESTAURANT: I don't know. I could never count them.

MARQUEZ: Now 74, she's known as grandma. What do you hope to see in the next few years?

NUNEZ: Well, I think one of the most important things is the economy to go up a little.

MARQUEZ: Now the restaurant is run out of a strip mall. Soon, a new building, a liquor license, as many as 15 new employees. But this family is still agonizing over which candidate is best for the future.

What makes this area so competitive?

LORENZO NUNEZ, EL CHIGNON RESTAURANT: As you consider the numbers in terms of how the Hispanic population is growing not only here but across the country, we have an important voice.

MARQUEZ: Latinos, business owners and newer residents ready to deliver Colorado's crucial nine electoral votes, they could decide who takes the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now, the president will be back in Colorado next week, next Tuesday. This time though, in conservative territory in Colorado Springs. Both campaigns working incredibly hard. Like everywhere else in the country, Wolf, it does seem that it will come down to organization and that ground game and who can get the vote out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Colorado clearly critically important.

Miguel, thanks for that good report.

Now, to another increasingly important presidential battleground. We are talking about the commonwealth of Virginia.

Our own John King spent some time there talking to pollsters and to real people out there.

John, what did you see?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And wolf, if you look at the map, Miguel is in Colorado, that's one of the red states the president turned blue. Virginia and North Carolina, among them as well. And you go to Virginia, you look at the map you see all this red. So, how did Obama win last time? He won by 234,000 votes state- wide, all of them, all of them from right here in fast growing northern Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice-over): Urgency in a place once reliably red.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Republican Party in Virginia.

KING: Mitt Romney's path to the White House runs through Virginia and to win it he must run strong in the fast changing suburb within an hour's drive of Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all about northern Virginia. There have been so many people who moved in the northern Virginia, particularly from the northeast, Democratic areas, that they have turned a solid red state into a purple state.

KING: Recent polls show a dead heat. Republicans polls

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at the dozen polls in Virginia taken before the first presidential debate on October 3rd, Obama was ahead in all 12. If you look at the eight polls taken after the first presidential debate, Romney was ahead in six out of the eight. And it's now a dead-even tie.

KING: To prove its 2008 win here was no fluke, team Obama knows he needs to run up a margin of 200,000 votes or more in the northern Virginia suburbs. If it delivers, it can ruin Governor Romney's night before the polls even close in the Midwest.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: The epicenter of this (INAUDIBLE) is going to be right here in Virginia.

KING: Democratic congressman, Gerry Connolly, knows Romney's more moderate tone of late is aimed at the suburbs. His spending, it won't work.

CONNOLLY: I think there's a trust factor with that. My constituents remember the Republican primaries. They don't suffer from amnesia. And I think that is a tough suffer Mitt Romney.

KING: The lunchtime visit to Harold and Cathy's proves the president has deep suburban support, but there are some cracks.

Mona Phillips is a registered Democrat, but she says she will vote Republican for president as she did last time.

MONA PHILLIPS. ROMNEY SUPPORTER: From the get-go, Mr. Obama promised so many things that I didn't believe he could do it. And he has proven that he couldn't do it.

KING: Robert Stevens is an independent and a Obama 2008 supporter.

ROBERT STEVENS, UNDECIDED VOTER: It was something different for the country, something that hadn't happened before, with a black president. So I got caught up in that a little bit. But I think he's a disappointment.

KING: You don't like what you got but you're not sold on the alternative?

STEVENS: Absolutely not. At this point I don't know who I'm going to vote for.

KING: Tense final days. In a place long known for historic battle fields. But a new comer to the world for presidential battle grounds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: So close like almost all the battleground what happens in the end, who will win depends on the ground game, Wolf. Both parties say they have got a much better ground operation than 2008.

The Republicans say they've knocked on more than a million doors. They have touched base by telephone and other contact with five million plus voters. And they say their early voting numbers are improved from 2008. That's the Republicans' perspective.

The Democrats say no way. They said they will win Virginia again because of this organization, 60 plus offices statewide. Latino registrations up 19 percent from four years ago. And of the new voters, those registered in the past couple of months, nearly 60 percent under the age of 30, the combination of Latinos and young voters. The Democrats hope, Wolf, put them over the top. Again in Virginia. Romney needs it. The president would like to keep it.

BLITZER: You know, we are hearing so many of these reports there could be recounts like in 2000. One of candidates could win the popular vote, lose the Electoral College vote. There are intriguing possibilities out there.

KING: There are. This is close, it could happen. You mention 2000. Let's go back. This has happened four times in our history. Of course, the most recent time was 12 years ago where Al Gore actually won by about a half a million votes in the popular vote. George W. Bush became the president of the United States because of 537 votes, now here in the state of Florida. It could happen again.

Again, people think the map this year will be more like this, less by 2008. Romney will do better in a lot of these states. So, in a race like this, some people think it's possible Romney ekes out a national popular win. The president ekes out the Electoral College win. It's so close it could go the other way too. The president could win the popular vote and Romney could pull out.

So, is it likely to happen? Both campaigns say probably not. But, guess what? Now, they think it is because it is so close it's possible. And guess what else? We've got a lot of lawyers standing by in case of a recount of original ballots, other morning after question.

BLITZER: A lot of lawyers are standing by as well.

You were in Ohio, you spent some quality time in Ohio. You saw the poll, CNN/ORC poll, likely voters in Ohio, 50 percent for President Obama, 46 for Mitt Romney. This is a critically important state we like to say and it's true, no Republican has won the White House without taking Ohio. Where do you see this going?

KING: No Republican has ever won without it. That's a statistical tie. But wolf, for months, the president, even though that's been the margin of error for months, the president has been two or three or four points, sometimes more ahead in Ohio. That's frustrating to the Romney campaign.

Here's what we're going to watch on election night. We are going to watch over here. The president did well on this area four years ago. The Romney campaign thinks coal industry, the attacks on the coal and she help him here.

But, here is another thing. This is one state when you look at the male, white vote. That, in this Midwestern state, if you look in Wisconsin, you look at Michigan, you look at Ohio, this is where the auto bailout plays out. You see the president standing among white males a little bit higher in those states with a piece of the auto industry than other places. And when you look at the electoral map, it is almost impossible. I can show you a mathematical scenario, almost impossible for Romney to win without that. So he's in play there right now, but you have to say, slight edge to the president going in to the last week.

BLITZER: If the president wins Ohio, I think it will be because of the auto industry.

KING: That's the number you would look at and you would have to say without a doubt. When you look at Michigan, when you look at Ohio, he even plays out in Wisconsin where there is GM facilities, and you even see it in Iowa, his working class white men in this area, the president's numbers are a little higher.

BLITZER: John, thanks so much. John King doing some excellent reporting for us.

A second term just release -- a second term plan, I should say, just released two weeks before the election. So why did the Obama campaign wait so long? I will ask the Obama campaign senior adviser, David Axelrod. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Heading into the final week before the election, the Romney campaign is accusing the president of being on the defensive and resorting to attacks and insults.

And David Axelrod is joining us now from Chicago. He's the senior adviser to President Obama and his re-election campaign.

David, thanks very much for coming in.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Sure, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: The Des Moines register had a headline, Obama sharpens criticism, Romney expresses optimism. And I will play you a little clip of what Romney's been saying about the president out there on the campaign trail. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: He is now resorted to talking about saving characters on Sesame Street and word games and of course he continues to launch these misdirected attacks at me and he knows they're not accurate and they're not making much progress for him. And so, his campaign gets smaller and smaller focused on smaller and smaller thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: They're saying that the president is diminishing the office of the presidency which is pretty strong words.

AXELROD: Well, those are strong words. They don't mean a whole heck of a lot because they don't reflect what's going on out there. I haven't seen Governor Romney on the trail with us. He is not traveling with us. And he really doesn't know perhaps what the president is saying and doing or perhaps he does and it concerns him.

The president is making a strong case for what we need to do to rebuild the middle class in this country and the kind of prescription for a genuinely strong economy. And Governor Romney, he says I represent change. He represents an echo of a failed past. He's offering the same prescriptions that got us into this mess in the first place. Big tax cuts for the wealthy, rolling back rules on Wall Street and he wants to talk about anything but that.

And I understand that because that's a losing formula and now the American people have concluded that. And so, in the 11th hour of the campaign, he's out there, you know, prattling on about things that aren't central to people's concerns.

BLITZER: They are also saying that this new brochure that you guys just released in the last two weeks of the campaign, the new economic patriotism, a plan for jobs in middle class, security. It's about a 30-page booklet outlining what the president would hope to achieve over the next four years. What took so long? Why wait until two weeks before the election to release a booklet like this?

AXELROD: Because we are in the last two weeks of the election and there are people out there who are making their final decisions. Not a lot, about five to 10 percent probably, making final decisions in this race. And we wanted them as they made those final decisions to take a very hard look at where we would take the country and where Mitt Romney would take the country. And it's valuable for them to have this in their hands to make that contrast.

All the ideas that are in that are the ones that the president has been campaigning on in this campaign. It's the ideas that he's been working toward as president. And so, you know, it's not that the ideas are new. They've been posted on our Web site for quite a long time. But we wanted people who are going to vote and were making their last-minute decisions to physically have it in their hand so they could focus on it as they make their final choice.

The Romney campaign has what they call a five-point plan, but they have nothing underneath it, no plan to revitalize our education system, no real plan on energy other than to give the oil companies everything that they are asking for including continued subsidies. But nothing for new energy.

As you go down, and then of course the biggest whopper is they're going to take care of our deficits when they propose $7 trillion in new spending between tax cuts for the wealthy and the Pentagon spending for which they have no plan to pay.

So, you know, saying you have a plan for the future doesn't mean you do. What he has is the one-point plan the president has been talking about, which is the same plan that got us into this mess in the first place.

BLITZER: The main argument they're making, he did it in his opening remarks in the last debate and the closing remarks at the last debate, is that more people are unemployed, more people are on foot stamps, more people are in poverty right now than they were four years ago, why re-elect a president who has a dismal record they say like this.

AXELROD: You know, the reason they're behind in this race, Wolf, is because that's been their mantra from the beginning. Everybody in this country knows where we were when this president took office and understands that we're in a better place now. We have more work to do. But the last thing we need to do is go back to the tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulating Wall Street, taking care of folks at the top, abandoning the middle class. That is essentially the strategy that got us into the mess that we were in the day the president walked in the door. So they're not gaining much traction with that argument.

What people are looking for is a vision for how we rebuild this economy, continue this recovery, and strengthen the middle class. And the president has offered specific ideas to do that that are real and credible and achievable. And that's something Governor Romney has not done.

BLITZER: David Axelrod from the Obama campaign. Thanks very much for joining us.

AXELROD: All right Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

It's among the tightest and most contentious contest in the country and it has national implications. We will get the latest on the Wisconsin Senate race. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's head to the Midwest right now and take a closer look at the lay of the political land in Wisconsin, another key battleground state. It has ten electoral votes. It went for President Obama in 2008. The latest polling shows the president with a six-point lead over Romney in Wisconsin. The president will be heading to Wisconsin this week. It certainly remains a toss-up on the CNN electoral map. There's also a very heated U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin underway right now.

Here's CNN's Ted Rowlands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the right, Tommy Thompson, on the left, Tammy Baldwin, now 70, he served four terms as Wisconsin governor and was George W. Bush's secretary of health and human services. She's 50, openly gay and a 14-year veteran of the House of Representatives. Up for grabs is the Senate seat left open by retiring Democrat Herb Cole which Republicans desperately want to help them win a majority.

TOMMY THOMPSON, U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm Tommy Thompson.

TAMMY BALDWIN, WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: I'm Tammy Baldwin.

ROWLANDS: Both sides are pouring in cash, a state record $40 million has been spent so far on this election. Almost three-fourths coming from groups that aren't directly associated with the candidates but are very interested in the outcome.

DANIEL BICE, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL: You can't turn on your TV right now without running into ads for Tammy and Tommy.

ROWLANDS: Daniel Bice has been covering Wisconsin politics for more than 20 years. This race he says is all about attacking the opponent.

BICE: She's trying to define Thompson as someone who was a good governor but no longer supports the interests of Wisconsin.

ROWLANDS: Tommy Thompson, he's not for you anymore.

BICE: He's trying to define her not as the nice Tammy Baldwin that you see on TV but as an extreme liberal who votes in a way people in Wisconsin would not support. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too extreme for Wisconsin.

ROWLANDS: There have been two debates and the pundits seem to agree each candidate has a win. Polls conducted by Marquette Law School have shown them both ahead at times. But now --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we're at a tied race. It's neck and neck.

ROWLANDS: The Marquette numbers show Wisconsin is extremely polarized, possibly due in part to the recent bitter gubernatorial recall election. The presidential race is also close here. Many believe it will be very difficult for Tommy Thompson to win if Mitt Romney doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have as many ticket splitters as I think Thompson campaign thought you might have had.

ROWLANDS: What you do have is a small percentage of undecided whose votes will likely determine the winners and both presidential and Senate races.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ted Rowlands reporting for us from Wisconsin.

Donald Trump's big announcement backfires this past week. So what was he thinking?

CNN's Jeanne Moos has reaction.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Donald Trump's October surprise turns into an October flop. The reactions have been coming in.

CNN's Jeanne Moos runs through them for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Donald better duck.

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: His bombshell announcement.

MOOS: The bombshell seems to have landed on trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump's a circus act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe we have the footage of the announcement of Trump making --.

MOOS: From a gorilla on Jon Stewart, Trump was morphed into a donkey by the "New York Daily News", his offer of a check to charity.

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN, CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: For $5 million. MOOS: If President Obama would release school and passport records reminded the folks at college humor of a certain someone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One million dollars.

MOOS: And presto-change-o, Donald was Dr. Evil, there were counterproposals some too raunchy for the news.

STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: One million actual dollars if you will let me (bleep).

DAVID LETTERMAN, THE LATE SHOW: And I said, hey, Don, I'll give you $5 million if you release that thing on your head.

(LAUGHTER)

LETTERMAN: Let it go.

MOOS: Jimmy Kimmel's show the Donald ended up playing the great Trumpkin (ph) in Charlie Brown's pumpkin patch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A check for $5 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the (bleep).

MOOS: The one almost painful to watch, the one that had to hurt the most came from an old friend of Donald's.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, THE VIEW: I'm going to say it to his face. Donald, you're making a fool of yourself.

MOOS: Soon Donald was tweeting at Barbara Walters, you just don't get it. He suggested she'd end up apologizing to him. Why did you choose me as one of the ten most fascinating people of the year from one top ten to another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number one lame October surprise Donald Trump offering $5 million to unearth anyone who still takes him seriously. There you go.

MOOS: But Trump insisted.

TRUMP: The response has been unbelievable. And I've had tremendous praise for the most part.

MOOS: Least Ann Coulter came through.

ANN COULTER, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I totally love it. It's completely show boating but I support Donald Trump in this. We need somebody like Donald trump on our side.

MOOS: So far the only thing released by President Obama was a zinger when Leno asked him what's up with you and Trump.

OBAMA: These old dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya.

(LAUGHTER)

MOOS: Between the president's mockery and Barbara's scolding.

WALTERS: Stop it. Get off it, Donald.

MOOS: Get off it before you get taken off all out in tonight show.

TRUMP: And if he gives his passport application --

MOOS: Jeanne moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Very funny stuff.

Remember, you can always follow what's going on in the SITUATION ROOM on twitter. You can tweet me @Wolfbliter.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.