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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama's Day: Interviews and Basketball; Romney's Last Minute Play for Pennsylvania and Ohio; Carville and Matalin Predictions; On the Ground in the Swing States
Aired November 6, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The presidential race has been won by Governor Ronald Reagan of California.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Clinton is now President Bill Clinton.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too close to call.
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BLITZER: Here it is, George W. Bush reelected.
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BLITZER: Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States.
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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: In just minutes, the first indication of where this election is going. We're about to release the first results from today's exit polls. It's Election Day in America.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, the final frantic reach for president, as Americans head to the polls and have their say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, ending a long and close campaign.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you want more of the same or do you want change?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fighting for every vote until the bitter end.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know what change looks like. And what he's offering ain't it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're live across the country with the candidates and in the battleground states that hold the keys to the White House.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Together, we can get this done.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's only one direction, forward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN's coverage of Election Day in America -- the fight for the presidency, the battle for Congress and the issues dividing the nation.
OBAMA: I still believe in you. And if you still believe in me, I'm asking for your vote.
ROMNEY: I need you to go out there and find people that will come join our cause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's your vote, your future, your country. Your choice.
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BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're only one hour away from the first poll closings of this, the 2012 Election. In addition to releasing the first exit poll results, we're going to be joined this hour by some of the two dozen reporters CNN has placed in the key battleground states. That's the most of any network. Plus, we have every toss-up state covered. Some of our crews are embedded with state election officials and we'll be relying on them to break news throughout the night.
Other CNN correspondents are following President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. They both had very busy days, urging their teams to make sure every possible voter gets to the polls.
President Obama spent much of his day doing radio and television interviews from Chicago, but he's also had a little bit of time to play basketball.
Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is over at Obama headquarters in Chicago -- so how is the president, Brianna, spending this day?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He spent the day having a little fun and doing a little work, Wolf. I'll tell you first where we are. We're at McCormick Place. This is where the Election Day rally will take place, where, if everything goes as scheduled, according to plan, President Obama will be ending his evening.
And we will be on the floor here a little later once doors open to people coming into this event at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
But President Obama started his day in Chicago after a very late night, coming in from Iowa. He stopped by a campaign office in south -- the South Side of Chicago, made some phone calls to some voters in Wi -- Wisconsin, including one that he joked didn't know who he was.
And then it time for what's become an Election Day ritual for President Obama, a pickup basketball game. Not a bad set of teams. He was on a team, we understand, with former Chicago Bulls, Scottie Pippen. Also there, his secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and Reggie Love, his long time and former personal aide.
But still, doing a lot of work today, as you mentioned, doing interviews with a number of TV stations in battleground states, including one in Milwaukee, urging voters to get to the polls.
Here's what he said.
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OBAMA: It's going to be close. We feel confident that we have the votes to win. But as is true in every election, it depo -- depends on who turns out.
And so I just hope that everybody who is watching, whether they're Republican or Democrat or Independent, take the time to vote.
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KEILAR: Now President Obama and the first lady will watch returns come in tonight from their home in the Kenwood/Hyde Park neighborhood. Then they'll be heading to the Fairmont Hotel, where a number of senior staff are staying as the night moves on. And this is where, Wolf, they will be finishing up their night, if everything goes according to plan.
Still, the doors have not opened. You can see setup going on behind me. But this is where we are going to be tonight, going out onto the floor among some of these supporters, to see if they end their night as expected, very jubilantly, or if there's disappointment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They're either going to be very, very happy or really, really sad.
Brianna, thanks very much.
Mitt Romney spent the day traveling, making a last minute play for votes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He'll be back in Boston to watch the results come in.
Our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is over at Romney headquarters in Boston.
What's going on over there -- Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the -- the latest action we have seen here is they are steam cleaning these flags behind me, obviously trying to get everything perfect. They want a good night here today. The candidate and his wife will be watching their returns with families in a hotel very close to here and will come over here for what they very much hope and believe will be a victory night.
I spoke to someone earlier in the campaigns, about 10 minutes ago, and said, hey, what -- what about a pulse check?
Their pulse check still is very strong, they say. They think the high turnout is good for them because they say it's showing up in Republican places.
I was hold by one Romney adviser that, in fact, in Republican places in Florida, in some of them, they've run out of ballots. You're going to have to double check that, as well.
But nonetheless, they are still voicing a good deal of confidence here that this will, in fact, be what it's billed to be here in this building tonight, and that is a -- a victory celebration for Mitt Romney.
BLITZER: In the last hour, we spoke with, Candy, with Ed Gillespie, one of the campaign -- Romney campaign senior advisers. He predicted at least 300 Electoral College votes for Mitt Romney. You need 270 to be elected president of the United States.
That's pretty upbeat, pretty -- pretty confident.
Is that what you're hearing behind the scenes, as well? CROWLEY: I -- I hear confidence. I don't hear those numbers. I mean, obviously, you know, I -- I heard Ed talk about that and he's saying that publicly. There have been pollsters within the camp that have bandied about that particular number. Obviously, they'll be happy with 270. Anything after that is gravy.
But as they add it up in their most optimistic form, they see that 300.
Now, again, whether they get that, you know, and we'll take a look at these exit polls. But more importantly, we'll take a look at the real polls when they start to come in, first here on the East Coast.
BLITZER: Real polls. We're going to be getting some real numbers at the top of the hour, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. The poll -- the polls in all the states, they start closing 7:00 p.m. Eastern. And we'll get those results coming in.
And we're also anticipating the first exit poll results. I know John King is working that part of the story -- Candy, as we await for some of these first exit poll results to come in, is it your sense tonight that what Ed Gillespie told me, that -- that Romney basically has prepared a victory speech, they're not really working on a concession speech?
Is that the talk you're getting, as well, behind-the-scenes?
CROWLEY: Yes. But if they were working on a concession speech, I don't think they'd tell us.
BLITZER: I think you're right.
CROWLEY: But we know from past campaigns, that sometimes these concession speeches have been written in that very last moment. It is not as though -- I mean Mitt Romney certainly could write it himself. But they have speechwriters. So that is something that they could do.
But, you know, these are campaigns that have been running hard for some time. And they're not going to -- on either side, going to accept, oh, we need a concession speech here, until they see the writing on the wall. And as far as they're concerned, I mean -- and we've talked about this before. We've got two campaigns who are looking at the same numbers and the same map and coming up with entirely different scenarios.
Somebody is going to be really, really disappointed tonight.
BLITZER: Yes. A good point.
Candy, thank you very much.
CNN's coverage of Election Night in America begins in less than an hour, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. As the first polls close, we're going to start getting real results coming in. We'll here -- we'll be here in the CNN Election Center, by the way, as long as it takes to determine a winner.
And stay with us for our first exit poll results.
John King is working that right now. We're going to get reaction from the Obama campaign to those first exit poll results. I'll be speaking with one of the president's most trusted political advisers, David Plouffe. He'll join me live.
We'll also have James Carville and Mary Matalin. They're here together for our Strategy Session.
What are their predictions on how things will turn out tonight?
Lots of news happening today, Election Day, in America.
BLITZER: Let's get straight to our Strategy Session.
Joining us now, our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, James Carville and his wife, the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin, who looks lovely today.
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you.
BLITZER: We may interrupt this conversation if John King gets the exit poll results. I want to share those immediately with our viewers. So stand by for that -- James, you're pretty upbeat as a Democrat, aren't you?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I am. And let me say, if -- if Governor Romney wins this election, it will be bigger than Truman in '48. There is not enough England in America to go on all the faces that's going to have (INAUDIBLE).
And, look it, if it...
BLITZER: Is there something special you're going to do -- are you going to grow a beard...
CARVILLE: No, I...
BLITZER: Are you going to grow a mustache?
CARVILLE: No. But I will -- I -- I will then...
MATALIN: Are you going to buy your wife some jewelry?
MATALIN: I'll bet.
CARVILLE: If he -- if he wins, I guess you'll probably get -- yes. It would be in -- my wife would be right in a massive prediction. Even like -- even Wolf Blitzer would have to say (INAUDIBLE) a little bit louder than a monotone if Romney wins.
BLITZER: Oh, it would be huge.
CARVILLE: I would say...
BLITZER: I mean what -- what would you say if Governor Romney wins?
MATALIN: I think my dear friend, Ed Gillespie, who is in the belly of the beast in Boston, is pessimistic. I think it's...
MATALIN: -- 315 to 320. I've been saying this all year.
BLITZER: Because he said 300. He said...
MATALIN: I know (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: -- at least 300.
MATALIN: -- 300. Now, why -- think about this. Let's just think about this. Per our polls, more Republicans are voting for Romney than Democrats are voting for Obama. And the Indies have split double digits.
BLITZER: The Independents.
MATALIN: The Independents have split double digits to...
MATALIN: -- to Romney. I don't even get what -- I don't understand (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: So why are you so confident?
Why are you smiling?
CARVILLE: Well, because, first of all, we've done our own polling and -- Stan and I. And we show (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: Stan Greenberg?
CARVILLE: Stan Greenberg. And we -- we trust our data. We show President Obama with a 4 point lead. Every prediction market, every...
BLITZER: A 4 point lead nationally.
BLITZER: But that -- what about battleground states?
Are you polling in the...
CARVILLE: Well, if you measure...
BLITZER: -- battleground states?
CARVILLE: No, we don't -- we don't have that kind of money for it. But -- but if you're leading in four nationally, you're going to win all the battlegrounds. They just tend to fall into place.
Every prediction market says the president is going to win. Every aggregator says the president is going to win.
And I would just, like I say, if I -- and I'm sitting here right now. If Governor Romney wins this and my wife is correct, this is going to be the biggest political story that you can imagine. It's just going to be staggering.
MATALIN: Just to...
CARVILLE: It would be.
MATALIN: -- just con -- consider my esteemed colleague's sources here, all the liberal aggregators are saying Obama is going to win. And the conservatives are saying that Governor Romney is going to win. And the public polls are split. We've been saying that for weeks.
But the momentum has been on the side of Governor Romney. And he's not head-faking in Pennsylvania, you know. And Gov -- President Obama has lost a number of important swing constituencies that are determinative -- Catholics, who are the swingingest voters in the swingingest states.We're getting -- Mitt Romney is getting suburbs which Republicans don't do as well, and it's just common sense.
BLITZER: What's the first indicator, real indicator? Once the polls close in a state, is there some county, some city, something you're going to be looking at?
CARVILLE: If the Republicans are right, you know, profoundly doubt this, but let's assume they are and Governor Romney were to carry Pennsylvania, game would be over.
BLITZER: If he carries Pennsylvania, that's a huge sign.
CARVILLE: Yes, that is --
BLITZER: Even if he loses Ohio?
CARVILLE: He's not going to carry Pennsylvania and lose Ohio.
BLITZER: Why not?
CARVILLE: Because things don't work that way. They just not -- literally, anybody in politics would tell you he can't. Now, if on the other hand if, President Obama carries either Virginia or Florida, game over. The importance of Ohio would recede. Now, then of course, that's the first thing to look for.
Let's see what happens in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida. I don't think Pennsylvania is in play. They do (INAUDIBLE) for the moment --
BLITZER: Do you agree with that analysis?
MATALIN: Mostly, except I think there's a path that's going to be an unusual map and the evidence of the uniqueness is nobody can agree on it. I don't think we're going to lose Virginia. The turnout is heavy in the place that needs to be heavy. But if we did lose Virginia, we could make Virginia up.
We can't lose -- you've got to win Florida. You can make up Virginia with Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, but then, you'd have to get Ohio. You can lose Ohio and Virginia, there's a path --
CARVILLE: If the president wins Virginia, (INAUDIBLE) I'm just going to call it.
BLITZER: You're ready to --
CARVILLE: You're ready to call it. I'm ready, because if he wins Virginia, he's going to win -- he's not going to win --
BLITZER: But he wins Virginia four years ago against John McCain when there were so much enthusiasm among the Democratic base for Obama.
BLITZER: But you have to agree, there's a lot less enthusiasm out there right now.
CARVILLE: You know, we can supposedly, if we're good enough pollsters and people are, we can account for that. It's not -- and by the way, the enthusiasm gap, at least in terms of "ABC/"Washington Post" poll and I think others is about the same. It was not -- it was more far a lot more for Senator Obama than it was to Senator McCain, that's true.
But good pollsters should be able to account for that. This is not something that's kind of new. But just in terms of Washington because it did matter what we say. Pennsylvania goes for Romney, Romney wins the election. Virginia, Florida goes for President Obama, he wins the election. If they both go for Romney in Pennsylvania, then we've got to go to Ohio. Then, we've got to --
BLITZER: Some of these counties in Northern Virginia, the suburbs of Washington, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, there are huge numbers of people waiting in line to vote, and this is the more Democratic part of the state as opposed to the southern part of the state.
MATALIN: That's right. But let me repeat a question my dear friend Rush Limbaugh has been asking all day. We know that every person, every Republican who voted for McCain is going to vote for Romney and then some. You don't know any Republicans that have switching to Obama. You know lots of Democrats that are switching to Gov. Romney, in your own poll, which Rush's pointing out all day today. Romney is getting way more Democrats. They're still identifying as Democrat that's saying they're going to vote for Mitt Romney. So, turnout in Democratic areas does not mean turnout exclusively or --
BLITZER: What do you think?
CARVILLE: I tell you it doesn't matter, because we're going to know. But what is interesting -- I guess they go to -- Prince William County, where Manassas is, that's where President Clinton and President Obama went to campaign. Those are going to be some start of key. If you're asking me what I would look at first, I know that Governor Romney is going to do well on south side.
I know that president is going to do well in Alexandria. But what I'd like to see, you know, is what's happening in Prince William and what's happening to some extent in Loudoun County. Those are going to be the early indicators about what happens in Virginia.
BLITZER: So, it's a nice jewelry if Romney wins? You're already anticipating --
BLITZER: Thanks to both of you for coming in. Exit polls, they're coming in. Our own John King has some brand new numbers that's coming up next. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: CNN is live at landmarks across the country where crowds are gathering to watch tonight's historic election coverage. In the president's hometown of Chicago, we're at Thompson Center Plaza with the largest screen in the city for free public viewing. Here on the east coast, CNN's election -- official election watch party, the heart of New York City's Times Square. Lots of people will be watching.
On the Vegas strip, people can stop and watch CNN's election results on the big screen at the miracle mile shops. And in Mitt Romney's hometown, Boston, check this out, you can watch CNN's election coverage at historic Faneuil Hall Market Place. It's being lit up for election night with more than 350,000 LEDs. It's a special preview of the holiday light and sound show called blink. That's a new Boston tradition.
You can also keep tabs on the changing electoral vote count in a whole new way right here on CNN. Take a look at the Empire State Building in New York. Now, take a close look at the top, the map. It will be following CNN's official electoral count. So, as we make projections, those red and blue columns will rise throughout the night. Blue for Obama, red, of course, for Romney.
Once we have a winner, those red, white, and blue lights on the upper floors will change colors. Check this out. If President Obama wins, the top of the Empire State Building will light up in bright blue. If Governor Romney wins, the building's mast will shine bright red.
New Yorkers, by the way, will be able to look up and see the results throughout the night. The rest of the nation can see it right here on CNN.
We're getting immediate reaction, and we'll get the first, latest exit poll numbers. Our own John King is standing by. We'll go to him for that, and we'll get reaction to those exit poll results from one of the president's top political advisers, David Plouffe. He's joining us live from Chicago.
BLITZER: Just a few hours to go until polling stations along the east coast begin closing. Actually, they close some of them 7:00 p.m. eastern. Let's get a quick snap shot of what's happening right now in four of the most important swing states beginning with CNNs Brian Todd. He's joining us from New Hampshire. What does it look like there, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is precinct three in Nashua, New Hampshire. Take a look at the crowd. They're really starting to build here as people get off work and start to come in here. Capacity here is a major issue. These crowds are going out the door. One official here told me they're concerned about people waiting in the cold.
Temperatures are dropping significantly out there. This official did tell me that they had three or four people leave here without voting out of frustration. So, the capacity to handle the record turnout in New Hampshire, that's an issue right now. Another issue here is the new voter I.D. law. People have to show photo I.D., you know, military I.D., driver's license, things like that in order to get to the polling station here.
That's a concern. Some complaints about that, but it's moved fairly smoothly. If you don't have that I.D., you've got to fill out what they call a challenged voter affidavit. That's this right here, essentially swearing that you are who they say -- that you say you are, and then, they're going to investigate to make sure that that's the case.
But capacity here is an issue, Wolf. They are starting to get concerned here and at least one other place in New Hampshire, in Goffstown that we heard of where the polling place was so backed up, the traffic was an issue on a major state road there. So, that's, you know, capacity in New Hampshire. A real concern, long lines out the door.
That's it from here for now. Let's go on to Northern Virginia.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. I'm Kate Bolduan in Prince William County, Virginia, a key swing county in this key battleground state. I'm right now at the board of elections here, right here, a sample ballot here in Prince William County.
This is where all of the action will be in just over an hour when the polls close and precincts start calling in their results right here at the headquarters. Barack Obama won Northern Virginia back in 2008 by 234,000 votes. Key to his success, Northern Virginia. And key to his success in the state was northern Virginia. A big boost to that in 2008 was absentee voting. State officials say right now absentee votes are -- there are 68,000 fewer absentee ballots in, but state officials also say they expect overall turnout to top that of 2008, which was more than 74 percent.
All eyes here in Prince William County, Virginia. For now, I'm going to toss it down south to another battleground state, Florida.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Drew Griffin here in Jacksonville, Duvall County, where right behind me they are counting the last of the absentee ballots, these are coming in, being processed, being added up. And I've got to tell you that right at the top of the hour, they're going to be ready to tabulate a lot of these votes.
Take a look at this machine that's been working for days now. They have 45 percent of the vote actually in and tabulated. Nobody supposedly knows what the count is, but they'll press a button very close to the top of the hour or a little bit afterwards and be able to spit out exactly how those votes are broken down. So we're going to get results here in Duvall County real early.
The rest of Florida looks like this. You're looking at Tampa, the Daytona Beach. The I-4 Corridor. That's the swing area of the state that everybody is fighting for. South and east of that, generally going Democratic, north and west of that, generally speaking going Republicans.
Just like the rest of the country, Florida is a battle for the middle of the state, that middle I-4 Corridor.
Let's go -- Marty Savidge, I got to tell you, it was a rainy start to a Florida day, but it turned out bright and sunny up here for the rest of the day, and although there are some long lines the temperatures are pretty darn comfortable.
Marty, you're in Cleveland, Ohio. I imagine it might be a little different.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little different. Cool temperatures but sunshine for the first time in many days. And that's what greeted voters in the poll.
Take a look at what's going on. This is the tabulation center for Cuyahoga County. It's going to be the center of everything that goes on when counting the votes here in this critical county. It's the largest vote wise when it comes to the state of Ohio.
Early voting numbers have already been released by the secretary of state and they show that the numbers of people who turned out to vote early surpassed 2008. It was 1.8 million total votes that were cast here in Cuyahoga. The county number came up to 294,798. The vast majority of the ballots that were cast are the same ones that are being scanned right now.
Absentee ballots that could become critical later when we start talking about the issues and problems and the issue of the unique situation with Ohio's provisional ballots. There have been some problems out of the polls. Some scanner machines reportedly not working and there are voters who are upset saying they think that their vote was not counted. Authorities here will say that's not the case. That they will be scanned. Every vote will be counted. Polls close at 7:30 -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Martin Savidge, and the entire team, thanks very much.
And please be sure to stay right here with us for complete special coverage of this historic presidential election in the United States. CNN's live coverage of "ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA" will continue at the top of the hour.
But right now we're waiting for those first exit poll results. We're going to bring them to you as soon as we get them. Stay with us.
BLITZER: There are dueling predictions about who will come out on top, as all of you know. But what happens, and it's possible, what happens if neither candidate prevails and we end up with a tie?
Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, even if most states vote exactly as anticipated today, each line here represents a way in which the battlegrounds could come together to produce an electoral tie, 269 votes for each candidate.
And if that happens, what comes next?
Well, rule number one, the incoming House of Representatives would then pick the president. That's right, all of the voting, all of the ads, all of the billions of dollars go right out the window and suddenly the people who will convene in this chamber in January would decide upon the president.
Rule number two, one vote per delegation or one vote per state. This is actually quite huge. Let me bring in a map to show you why it matters so much. Under this rule, states like California that have tens of millions of voters would suddenly have the exact same amount of influence as states like North Dakota that have a whole lot less.
One vote per state. That's it. No exceptions.
And it gets better. Look at rule three, the popular vote does not count. Your state's vote would be determined by what your congressional delegation wanted to do. And that could make some strange things happen.
Look at Illinois over here. Barack Obama's home state. It has voted reliably Democratic in presidential elections for quite some time now but if you look at the congressional delegations in that state, you can see that outside of Chicago and down around St. Louis, everything is held by the Republicans.
They have more congressional seats and they could turn the vote in that state red for Romney. This could really remake the map.
By the way, states like Minnesota that right now have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, they essentially would have their vote nullified unless those different parties could find a way to cast the vote one side or the other for some reason.
Bottom line, it remakes the electoral map. We know right now that this is a very close race. With the red states or blue states and the battleground states. But if you applied this formula to the current U.S. Congress, look at what happens to the map. The Republicans have a massive advantage in the number of states it would hold and Mitt Romney would absolutely sweep into the White House.
But, but, not necessarily Paul Ryan. Because just as the U.S. House would be tasked with picking the new president, the U.S. Senate would pick the vice president. And the Democrats have an advantage there. They may have an advantage after this election. So the incoming Senate could give us a ticket nobody counted on.
Mitt Romney as president and Joe Biden as vice president. Huge change there. And by the way, they can't change that. They can't put Barack Obama in there. They have to go with the candidate they have. And if there's a tie in the Senate, Joe Biden could cast the deciding vote for himself.
Now none of this is guaranteed. There's so many things that could happen. There could be recounts, there could be legal challenges, or the most surprising things of all, a faithless elector.
Remember, you're not voting for president today, you're voting for members of the electoral college who will then go and say this is how this state wants its votes counted. One of those electors could simply go rouge and say, I'm not going to do what my state told me to. Some states have rules against it. Others do not. It's happened a good number of times in the past 50 or 60 years, and it could happen again. And if it did, Wolf, one person changing his or her mind could change history and give the election to Barack Obama or to Mitt Romney -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow. That would be amazing indeed, 269-269. Let's see if that happens. I suspect it won't, but it's something worth pondering right now.
Stand by, we're getting exit poll results coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. Our coverage of this ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA will resume obviously at the top of the hour. Lots more going on right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Let's go to Chicago right now. Joining us the White House senior adviser David Plouffe, one of the president's close advisers.
David, thanks very much for coming in.
DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: What do you make of the decision for Mitt Romney to show up in Pennsylvania today and Joe Biden, I guess, surprise decision to show up in Ohio today. Give us some perspective.
PLOUFFE: Well, I think, you know, the vice president was on his way to Chicago. Ohio is a critical state, as you know, and he wanted to go there and thank our volunteers who were working so hard to get out the vote. The president, as you know, called some voters today and is doing interviews in the battleground states. And that's where our focus is. We're convinced the president has enough support to win this election. We just have to make sure it materializes in vote.
Polls are still open in all the battleground states and we want to encourage out anybody out there who hasn't voted and supports the president to get out and vote. If you don't know where to vote, go to vote.barackobama.com, and there's still plenty of time to exercise your right to vote.
BLITZER: Still got a few hours to go out there and vote. I hope all Americans who are eligible do in fact go out to vote.
Do you think Pennsylvania is legitimately in play? Ed Gillespie in the last hour not only thought it was in play, he thought Romney was going to potentially win Pennsylvania.
PLOUFFE: Well, you'll have to ask Ed in a few hours to square that statement with reality. You know, Pennsylvania is a state, you know, Mitt Romney would have to win two-thirds of the independent vote, Wolf, to win. He's probably not going to do that in any state much less Pennsylvania.
It's going to be closer than it was in 2008, no question about that. But we've got a great organization. We like what we're hearing about today in terms of turnout in Pennsylvania. And we feel confident that at the end of the night Pennsylvania will be Obama blue on your map there on your set.
BLITZER: All right. He also predicted -- Ed Gillespie -- at least 300 electoral college votes for Mitt Romney. Do you want to offer any predictions?
PLOUFFE: No, I'm not going to offer a prediction, other than this. I'm very confident that at the end of tonight or early tomorrow morning, Barack Obama will have enough electoral votes to be re- elected president. I think we're going to do very well. We have nine battleground states that we've been targeting. We think we have a chance to win all of them. And, you know, the remarkable thing about today is you see our democracy at work. And, you know, thousands of people out on the streets are trying to encourage people to vote.
And again, we like what we're seeing in terms of turnout on these battleground states.
BLITZER: We -- the president, as you pointed out, did a whole bunch of satellite interviews with local television stations in some of these key battleground states, including WJLA, our affiliate here in Washington and northern Virginia, obviously as one of their target audience. Listen to this little exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would you do something differently if you look back on this race in how you've handled it so far?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you know, I think overall we've run a race that I can be proud of. Obviously I should have probably had a few more cups of coffee before the first debate. But other than that, I feel very good about the work we've done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That first debate, do you think if Romney wins, will it come down to that performance in that first debate?
PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, I don't think Governor Romney is going to win this race. Now -- Wolf, what you're going to see tonight, our strong suspicion is, is the race that we always knew we were going to have, and we built our campaign for it. Which is a very close race in a number of battleground states. All the first debate did was accelerate some of Governor Romney's gains.
He was going to get in battleground states 47, 48, 49. You know, we live in a closely divided country. So the notion that somehow we're going to win battleground states by six, eight, 10 points was just pure fantasy. So this is the race we've always anticipated, a very close race for the presidency, coming down to a few battleground states. And we put our faith in the hands of the American people and into our tremendous staff and volunteers who have built the grassroots -- best grassroots campaign in political history.
BLITZER: You know, last night in Des Moines, the -- we saw something unusual. And I've been covering the president for a long. He got emotional and you could actually see some tears coming down his eyes as he recalled his journey that started a while ago, as you well know and you were with him every step of the way, back in Iowa when he won those Iowa caucuses.
How unusual is this? You've known him for a long time. Usually it's no drama Obama. He's very cool. But you could see the tears coming down his eyes as he reflected.
PLOUFFE: Well, I think, Wolf, you know, it was Barack Obama's last campaign event as a candidate. And so that in and of itself would cause you to reflect. But the fact that it was in Des Moines, you know, it was right next to our headquarters in Iowa where we'd all spent so much time. And you've got to remember, when we launched our race for the presidency, you know, a lot of people didn't even know who he was, couldn't pronounce his name. Didn't give us much of a chance.
And I think as the president looked out in that crowd last night, he saw so many people who believed in him and believed -- in their ability to change the country before anyone else in the country did. So I think for all of us last night, most importantly the president, it was very emotional to see those people.
You know, as you know in 2007, we spent a lot of time in Iowa. It was a second home for us. And the president went to every corner of that state. And so I think his message last night, and they could play a very important role tonight. If we win the state of Iowa and we think we will, that's going to be a really important piece of the puzzle for us, winning 270 electoral votes.
BLITZER: David Plouffe joining us from Chicago. Thanks very much on this historic day. We'll stay, obviously, in close touch with you as well.
PLOUFFE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're now ready to release the first results from today's exit polls of voters around the country. Our chief national correspondent John King has been reviewing all the data.
What are you seeing there, John?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we'll give you a glimpse first of what's on the minds of voters nationally, as they go to the polls. Then we'll zero in on one of the key early battleground states, the state of Virginia.
No surprise here. Sixty percent, 60 percent of voters nationwide today say the most important issue facing the country is the economy. Now a bit later when the polls start closing, we'll show you how these voters broke down. We can't do that right now because the polls are open across the country. But six in 10 Americans today as they went to the polls said that's issue number one, 15 percent said the deficit, 17 percent said health care.
So personal economic issues dominating the electorate. Only 4 percent, Wolf, saying foreign policy is the most important issue facing the country.
What's the most important candidate quality when you pick a president? You see an interesting split here, 29 percent say a vision for the future, 28 percent say shares my values. Now the president has won on that in pre-election polls. We'll see how he did on Election Day.
Strong leader, this is an area where Governor Romney hopes to do well. About 20 percent of American said strong leader is the most important quality. And cares about people. You might lump that with shares my value. More of an empathy there on that question. Again, that's nationally, the national electorate.
Who is more in touch with people like you? Well, the president wins on that one, 52 percent of Americans say President Obama is more in touch with people like them, 44 percent for Governor Romney. You can see how that plays out in the characteristics as people choose a candidate. But then we ask this question, who would better handle the economy? As we said six in 10 Americans say that's the top issue, and Governor Romney wins on that issue, 51 percent nationally say Governor Romney would better handle the economy, a narrow edge, 47 percent, saying the president would better handle the economy.
Now let's shift into one of the early key battleground states. Here's a piece of demographic information that could prove to be important. Twenty-one percent of voters in Virginia today describe themselves as white, evangelical Christians. That number, when President Obama carried the state four years ago, was higher. It was about 28 percent of the Virginian electorate four years ago, for evangelicals. That could be.
We're not looking at the results yet. We'll -- we'll see how that plays out down the road. That could be an issue for Governor Romney. He needs not only high support among evangelicals, but he's hoping for high evangelical turnout. That number down from 2008. We'll see how that plays out.
And yet, here are some encouraging news, if you will, for Governor Romney. Should the 2010 health care law be repealed? Nearly half of Virginia voters say yes. That has been a key plank in Governor Romney's agenda, Wolf, as you know, to repeal Obamacare, as he calls it. Forty-nine percent of Virginians say yes, 46 percent say no. So a pretty healthy divide on this question in what we assume will be a pretty evenly divided battleground state of Virginia. At least if you look at the pre-election polls.
One more question here, just on this one state. We showed you the national numbers, and in Virginia, pretty much tracks the national numbers. More than half of the voters today, 53 percent, say the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, would better handle the economy. Their top issue, of course. And Wolf, 45 percent say the president would better handle the economy.
So when you go through these numbers on candidate qualities and on the issues, a pretty even divide. It suggests, as we saw it coming in, we've got a close, competitive election.
BLITZER: Very close in Virginia and several other key battleground states. John is going to be going through these numbers for us throughout the night. Thank you.
The first polls getting ready to close. "ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA" coverage, straight ahead.
BLITZER: As we just mentioned, President Obama is getting a little teary-eyed with his final campaign drawing to a close.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know you're in for a sentimental night when it starts with one of those famous Obama hugs, where they seemed like they're all alone, even though tens of thousands of us are watching. But enough kissing. Time for reminiscing. Iowa is where Barack Obama's drive for the presidency got its start.
OBAMA: And you welcomed me and Michelle into your homes.
MOOS: And then, it happened.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And Mr. Obama got teary-eyed, wiped a tear from his face.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: An emotional night even for a president, known for keeping his cool.
MOOS: Maybe it was the cold making him cry. Nah.
OBAMA: I want to say one thing to all the young people.
MOOS: Not once, but three times.
OBAMA: To all of you who've lived and breathed the hard work of change, I want to thank you.
MOOS: The president used his finger --
OBAMA: Who believe we've all got something to contribute.
MOOS: -- to dab away a tear.
(On camera): No surprise, the president's tears had some of his critics crying -- crying foul.
(Voice-over): "Who cries from just one eye," asked someone calling herself Jonie Baloney. "He must have just seen his internal poll numbers. He needs an Academy Award to set next to his Nobel Prize."
And playing off that familiar chant --
CROWD: Four more years. Four more years.
MOOS: -- the "Drudge Report" mocked, "Four More Tears." The president's supporters fired back. "Romney would have wept, but his handlers forgot to refill his wiper fluid."
The president has cried before at a funeral for a civil right activist as Michelle eyed his watering eyes. And four years ago, exactly one day before the election --
OBAMA: It's hard a little to talk about.
MOOS: Then Senator Obama lost the grandmother who had help raised him, and this time thumbed away the tracks of his tears.
OBAMA: A broken politics in Washington.
MOOS: Four years apart, both times a day before the election --
OBAMA: I want to say one thing to all the young people.
MOOS: But Barack Obama is no John Boehner.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I've spent my whole life chasing the American dream.
MOOS: With President Obama, it almost takes a still photo to capture the tears, and then nostalgia gave way to kissing those tears good-bye.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The presidential race has been won by Governor Ronald Reagan of California.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor Clinton is now President Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Too close to call.
BLITZER: Here it is, George W. Bush re-elected. Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States.