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Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff; Interview With Maine Senator Olympia Snowe

Aired November 8, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight with late word that President Obama will speak to the nation tomorrow, making a brief statement from the East Room at 1:00 p.m. on the economy. That issue, the economy, directly touches on the dysfunction in Washington that Americans say they hate.

Many went to bed election night thinking they voted to fix that. "Keeping Them Honest," though, not so fast.

The thing is, speed really matters here. In just seven weeks, the Bush tax cuts expire, automatic spending cuts agreed to by both parties kick in. It's called the fiscal cliff. And even though it's more like the fiscal kind of steep slope, heading down, it could do some very bad things to the economy. Concerns about rolling down it or falling off it or whatever you want to call it have already made markets nervous and credit rating agencies and economists of all stripes are warning about the consequences of not hammering out a deal in time.

Politicians in both parties, well, they have been sending out mixed signals ever since the election. On the one hand, they're talking about common ground. Take a look.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the disruptive power of a warming planet.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The nation as you know is at a critical point. At a time like this we can't risk partisan bickering and political posturing.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If there's a mandate in yesterday's results, it's a mandate for us to find a way to work together on the solutions to the challenges that we all face as a nation.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: It's better to dance than to fight. It's better to work together. Everything doesn't have to be a fight.


COOPER: Sounds promising, right? But that's not all they're saying. Tonight on ABC News, House Speaker Boehner ruled out any deal that lets any tax rates go up.


BOEHNER: Raising tax rates is unacceptable and, frankly, it couldn't even pass the House. I'm not sure it can pass the Senate.


COOPER: Vice President Biden, meantime, told reporters off camera the voters gave Democrats a clear mandate on taxes by reelecting a president who promised the following over and over again.


OBAMA: Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy is not change. I'm not going to turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut. I'm going to lower taxes for middle class folks. Let's also make sure the wealthiest households pay a little bit more.


COOPER: Well, "Keeping Them Honest," Americans did vote for that by a slim majority in the popular vote and a comfortable majority in the Electoral College. They also increased the Democratic lead in the Senate.

However, they preserved Republican control of the House. So no matter how ugly you think the tone in Washington has been over the last four years, no matter how childishly you think a lot of lawmakers have acted, on a structural level, who controls what, there may be less change than meets the eye, which is why what you will be hearing in Washington in the coming weeks may sound less like this:


REID: Everything doesn't have to be a fight. Everything doesn't have to be a fight.


COOPER: And more like this, more like each side getting ready for an epic fight.


TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS SENATOR-ELECT: I do not think we should be raising taxes, especially when the country is on the brink of a recession.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Can you have a compromise?


O'BRIEN: That was a gap before you said yes. That scares me.

CRUZ: I will spend every moment in the Senate working to help lead the effort to stop that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another round of tax breaks for very wealthy people will somehow trickle down. We know that doesn't work.

REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: The president wants to raise taxes. Raise taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. My principle would be, Mr. President, we're not going to help you to get that done.


COOPER: Olympia Snowe is the outgoing Republican senator from Maine, a moderate. She says she is retiring in part because of dysfunction in Washington.

Senator Snowe joins me now.

Senator, you recently said that senators should be individually and collectively embarrassed, those were your words, about their failure to work together to address big issues. Based on the rhetoric we are hearing now from both sides, do you have any faith they are going to be able to do that, to work together to avoid this fiscal cliff?

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Well, I certainly hope so, Anderson. I thought it bode well based on what the president said on the eve of his election, as well as what Speaker Boehner addressed in his own remarks yesterday, and I know the president's going to be making a speech tomorrow.

But it's critical that we begin to do so as soon as possible. The more we prolong the uncertainty and unpredictability, the more likely we are going to invite or trigger a financial crisis. We have seen what's happening even on the stock market. We never know. I think that's the point here.

And the sooner that we can get back on track in helping the economy, helping businesses to make decisions for the future that would help to generate economic growth, the better off we will be. But the uncertainty is certainly a dangerous -- is dangerous and we're in uncharted waters.

COOPER: But do you see any real signs of a willingness to compromise? It seems like compromise has become a dirty word in Washington and, you know, even Speaker Boehner, you know, basically gave an interview in which he said that Obamacare is the law of the land and then kind of walked it back after a Tea Party groups went ballistic about it.

SNOWE: Well, one thing I know from this election and certainly I think we should all have learned is that people want bipartisanship and they understand that compromise is an absolutely invaluable ingredient to getting things done. We have an obligation to be problem solvers, now more than ever, given the tenuous nature of our times and the situation that we're in as a country.

I describe it as not just any moment. We're at a tipping point. So it's crucial and I think the president should invite the leadership in both the House and the Senate to sit down to begin to sketch out an agenda and a framework by which we're going to address these issues in the lame-duck sessions.

COOPER: Have Republicans figured out how to move forward? There are extremes in your party just as there are extremes in the Democratic Party, a different kind of extreme, but let's talk about the Republican Party. There are extremes in the Republican Party and it seems like a lot of Republican leaders who are not on the extreme have a hard time even calling out the extreme, or having an open discussion about it.

SNOWE: Well, that's why their leaders are going to have to take those positions in doing what is right.

Obviously, they represent the caucuses. You know, they're elected by their caucuses, but sometimes they are also going to have to stand up and say we have to move forward, and we have to do that. I have worked with six presidents and it certainly worked that way with President Reagan. He had to build coalitions in order to get things done. He didn't get everything he wanted, but he got some of what he wanted, the most important things.

So both sides have to understand it and reach accommodation. There's no other way to do it in the United States Senate. After all, you need 60 votes. If you need 60 votes, that means both sides have to get together and you have to make concessions. The American people understand that. They know that you have to, you know, solve problems and that you're going to have to reach consensus and compromise in order to do so.

COOPER: All right, Senator Snowe, appreciate it. Thank you.

SNOWE: Thank you.

COOPER: Digging deeper now, how much of the problems in Washington stem from instability and extremism and how much is it simply a matter of structural divisions that the latest election did little to change?

We are joined by Mark McKinnon, a moderate Republican who has been a member of both major parties and recently co-founded a movement called No Labels dedicated to bipartisanship and civil discourse in politics. He's also been a national songwriter, which puts him in pretty good company. Also with us, political analysts David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

Gloria, let me start with you.

You think the onus is on the president to set the tone here. Do you think that's because he bears more responsibility in this situation than the Republicans or because he's just got a better ability as president to set the tone?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, he just got reelected as president of the United States. I think when you're president, it's incumbent upon you, we are going to hear from him tomorrow, to set the tone for negotiations, to extend the olive branch and say you know what, I want to work with the folks on the other side of the aisle,

I'm not saying that the president has to completely compromise with himself before he sits down at a table. I know he's not going to do that. But to me, Anderson, the problem is, and I was listening to Olympia Snowe, the problem is that nobody got punished for bad behavior in this election.

Everybody can take something away from it and say, OK, the public is with me.

COOPER: Yes, but, David, to Gloria's point, all this election we heard from both candidates, Mitt Romney and from President Obama and from all their supporters that this was a very clear choice, that the choice couldn't be clearer between President Obama who wanted to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, Mitt Romney, who did not.

And yet now that the choice has been made, all of a sudden we're hearing from a lot of Republicans saying, well, that's not the choice the American people made.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, I would respectfully say that both parties intentionally muddled the choice during the campaign.

Neither candidate set forward a comprehensive agenda for dealing with the deficits and that it's now incumbent on both parties to do that. I think we have no choice. I think Gloria's right. The president ought to set the tone. But I also think Speaker Boehner, speaker of the House, he's got to come forward. They, too, ought to be sitting down together along with two or three other leaders in the next 48 to 72 hours.

COOPER: It doesn't sound like -- he made a statement about Obamacare being the law of the and land, now he's walking that back because some Tea Party groups...


GERGEN: Well, that's true. What we have got is a problem that Russell Long described a long time ago, the senator. He said everybody in Washington wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to do what it takes to get there. That's what we have got.

They are all for compromise as long as it's on their terms. What you have got now and especially in the Republican Party, we have got an extreme element that is deeply dug in against no tax increases, period. We're going to go over the cliff if we have to. And you have got in the Democratic Party a group of people who are equally dug in on Medicare and on Social Security. We're not touching the benefits for that. You can't get there to entitlement reform without that. The president has got to unlock that now.

That's what being elected to the second term -- you know, look, the second term is not all about laurels and applause. It's about you got elected to do hard work.

COOPER: And, Mark, which is worse for Republican lawmakers right now, the consequences of compromise or the consequences of failing to compromise?

MARK MCKINNON, FORMER MEDIA ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, the consequences, Anderson, will be if there's no action. What we saw across the board from No Labels as we were campaigning across the country talking to candidates and talking to voters is that they don't care about partisan politics at this point. They just want the problems solved.

Americans understand that there's got to be give on both sides. So I'm encouraged actually that voters get it. They sent the message and I think our elected representatives know at the end of the day. I think there's a lot of posturing going on right now. I'm encouraged by what Speaker Boehner said about revenues. He may have hedged that a little bit in the last 24 hours and may want to see where he can get it from tax reform first, but ultimately, Republicans are acknowledging which is a good sign that there has to be revenue as part of this deal.

And same thing on the Democratic side.

COOPER: So, you think it's posturing right now, some of this stuff we're hearing?

MCKINNON: I think it's what Harry Reid said. I think there's a lot of dancing going on right now, but I think we will get to the fixing pretty soon.

COOPER: Gloria, everyone sees the fiscal cliff coming here. How much can Congress really get done in the lame-duck especially if they are only going to give it a week or so?

BORGER: You know, that's a big question. Look, there are two things to consider here. First of all is the question of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expiring. The president has said that's going to happen and that's the real stumbling block here before you get even to the larger question of the fiscal cliff.

Everybody knows, in the larger package, everybody wants to do tax reform. Mitt Romney proposed capping deductions, for example, during the campaign. That's something Republicans might be able to sign on to. But before they even get to tax reform, they have to figure out how to get around this larger problem.

And, you know, in talking to some Democrats, Chuck Schumer has suggested redefine wealth. Make it tax cuts expiring for people who earn over $1 million a year, or something like that. They just have to find a way to get around that. If they can do that, I think they can have a framework for everything else.

COOPER: Mark, I'm curious to hear what you have to say because the Republican Party -- I think I have heard you say in the past the Republican Party has a problem with its brand right now. What lessons should they take from the results of the election?

Because if you listen to Rush Limbaugh, and I was just reading the transcript of what he was saying, it's like, we don't have a demographic problem. The problem was not enough Republicans came out and voted. And so all this talk about the extremes and the demographic problem is just not true.

Then I saw somebody saying Sean Hannity is now switching his position on immigration or evolving it, and says he's evolved today.

MCKINNON: Well, I don't think the results could be any clearer.

And to suggest that Republicans didn't turn out, well, that's true they didn't turn out, but part of the reason they didn't turn out is that a lot of them recognized there wasn't a clear message coming from the Republican Party, that the brand has suffered a lot because of their failure to step forward and put forward clear plans, and to problem solve.

The Republicans just like Democrats agree that we have got to solve these problems and they understand there's got to be a give. So, you know, it's about stepping up to the plate, recognizing there's sacrifice on both parties that need to be put on the table and I think -- I look forward to the president's remarks. I think he just should get everybody in the room, lock it up and get it done.

COOPER: David Gergen, thanks. Mark McKinnon, good to have you on, Gloria as well.

Let us know what you think. I'm on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. Let's hear from you now.

Just ahead, where does the Tea Party stand in the wake of Tuesday's elections? Michele Bachmann kept her seat, but the Tea Party did not expand its ranks in Congress and some Republicans are saying the Tea Party may have actually cost Romney the election. Where does the movement go from here? That's next.


COOPER: President Obama's reelection was obviously a loss for Mitt Romney, a bad one, but by extension, it may have been an even bigger loss for the Tea Party. After all, Paul Ryan, a Tea Party favorite, seven-term congressman, couldn't deliver his own state of Wisconsin for his ticket.

He will return to his House seat to serve an eighth term. Many Tea Party members did keep their House seats as well, but they didn't increase their ranks on Tuesday, and they lost two very winnable Senate races. It's a pretty big contrast to the splash they made back in the 2010 midterm elections and the muscle they flexed throughout the presidential primaries.

Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not the scene most supporters of the Tea Party envisioned or desired. Barack Obama was supposed to be a one-term president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberty, yes. Obamacare, no. Liberty, yes. Obamacare, no.

TUCHMAN: A primary mission of the Tea Party, get the government out of people's lives. There was even an African-American-led chapter in South-Central L.A. complete with a sign at one rally that read "Tea Party supports MLK's dream."

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I see today that Fidel Castro likes Obamacare, but we don't like Obamacare. Doesn't that kind of tell you something?

TUCHMAN: There was a lot of passion, but also problems. There was Christine O'Donnell running for Senate in Delaware. Years earlier, she had told Bill Maher she had dabbled in witchcraft and she delivered this line in a political ad.


TUCHMAN: Not only did she lose, but some say this was an early sign of problems the GOP would later have with untested Tea Party candidates. There were many other notable Tea Partiers in the limelight that year.

Sharron Angle running for Senate in Nevada, but she was tripped up when she said this to a group of Latino teenagers.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), FORMER NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don't know that.

TUCHMAN: As the Tea Party increased its influence, speculation increased. Would former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin run for president?

PALIN: Many of us today, that outrage, that moment of outrage, it came with the passage of Obamacare.

TUCHMAN: Ultimately, Palin decided not to run for president in 2012. But friends of the Tea Party, like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, did.

I caught up with Bachmann at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. She was running for reelection for Congress and was at the height of her influence.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I don't take it for granted. I don't take any election for granted. So, thank you.

TUCHMAN: But, in 2012, not only did her support drop quickly in the presidential race; she barely won her congressional race this week.

It was worse for two other Tea Party favorites. Todd Akin lost his Senate race in Missouri, his effort not helped by this comment.

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

TUCHMAN: And Richard Mourdock lost his Senate race in Indiana after he said this.

RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

TUCHMAN: The Tea Party's anti-government message continues to resonate with many. But, arguably, the group's policies and miscues might have cost the GOP a chance to be the majority party in the U.S. Senate.

Tea Party supporters put together a video of what they expected to see this week.

NARRATOR: Tea is evolutionizing the movement. They think it's over. Won't it be fun to see their faces on November 6?

TUCHMAN: As it turns out for them, it wasn't a lot of fun.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Well, in the wake of Tuesday's losses, the Tea Party is taking heat from some Republicans who believe the Tea Party's views on social views alienated voters and cost Romney the election. It's complicated, though.

Here's what House Speaker John Boehner said today in his interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Is the Tea Party going to be by your side through this?

BOEHNER: We have got members from all different types of -- all walks of life, if you will.

SAWYER: But do you think they come back changed by this election? BOEHNER: No, listen, I think this has been the most misreported story of my two years' tenure. We don't have a Tea Party caucus to speak of in the House. All of us who were elected in 2010 were supported by the Tea Party.

These are ordinary Americans who have taken a more active role in our government. They want solutions. But we have all come a long way over the last two years. I think we all understand each other a lot better.


COOPER: We should point out we reached out to a number of Tea Party groups to be on the program tonight. They declined.

Joining me now, former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who was an unpaid occasional communications adviser to the Romney campaign. Also Van Jones, former special adviser to the Obama White House.

Ari, what about that? Is the Tea Party to blame for fielding some candidates who weren't ready for prime time, for some of the problems the Republican Party is having, or what?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's complicated and it varies from state to state. Frankly, in Missouri, where Todd Akin was a horrible candidate and said some foolish, foolish things, he wasn't the Tea Party candidate. He actually ran against two Tea Party- endorsed candidates. They split the vote. He walked into the middle of it.

So Akin was more your traditional social conservative wing of the party. I don't think he's a traditional Tea Partier. And in 2010, the Tea Party's record was terribly mixed. They brought us on the one side Marco Rubio and Senator Ron Johnson, to their credit. They defeated moderates. Or Rubio defeated a moderate and is a stellar senator.

On the other hand, they brought us Christine O'Donnell and they brought us Sharron Angle in Nevada, two of whom -- neither one of which was qualified to be a nominee, let alone a senator.

My issue, Anderson, is I like the economic conservatism of the Tea Party. They are the ones reminding America that we are going broke. But in addition to having that message, they have to have good messengers. You cannot separate message from messenger.

COOPER: But, Van, according to Tuesday's exit polling, a central tenet of the Tea Party, that of less government, is still alive. Just over half, 51 percent, say government is doing too much. Can Democrats make room, do they need to make room for policies that support that message?

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, first of all, when we talk about the Tea Party, I think sometimes people just say everything they don't like about the Republican Party, they just say that's the Tea Party.

I think that's not fair. The Tea Party is one of the most impressive citizen movements in the history of the country. I think they have to be spoken with, with a certain amount of respect. However, they have been I think harmful to the GOP.

The GOP's big problem now is that they have backed themselves in this sort of demographic cul-de-sac where they just are a dwindling party at this point. They are not appealing broadly and some of the style and tone of the Tea Party has been very offensive to people of color, to women and it's going to make it harder for the GOP to govern and harder for it to grow.

That said, the other thing is that they were rejected this week at the ballot box. It's not that they didn't grow. Key Tea Party heroes were voted out of office. Allen West is gone, Joe Walsh is gone, and so I think they have got to really reconsider what they're doing. At the same time, I think it would be a mistake for Democrats to say that we can't work with anybody in the Tea Party. That's not true. Or that the entire Republican Party is just the Tea Party caucus, that's also not true.

COOPER: But, Ari, it seems like some of that not willing to compromise, some of that rhetoric came from Tea Party groups, that idea that if you're compromising you're giving up your principles and it's better to stand on principle, you know, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

FLEISCHER: Look, I don't think compromise is a dirty word. I think we have to get things done in Washington.

But when we have a debt the size of the debt we have, the Tea Party is really the ones who have woken us up to it and made us think this is the nation's number one problem and it must be tackled. We can't make the usual compromises of the past. We have to do fundamental big things.

So I'm with them on that principle, focus on the debt, make meaningful, not temporary solutions to the debt. But at the end of the day, I do want to compromise. And let me point one thing out. When you did have the Boehner/Obama compromise on debt limit, that was supported by two-thirds of House freshmen. Only 50 percent of the Democratic members voted for it.

So there's also a bit of a mislabeling going on here. They did compromise on that debt limit agreement. The liberal caucus in the Democratic Party was not as willing to compromise.


FLEISCHER: You have to look at it issue by issue, and not paint with too broad a brush.

COOPER: But, Ari, it is interesting. Specifically on Obamacare, Speaker Boehner said today Obamacare is here to stay, it's the law of the land. Members of the Tea Party went ballistic and now he's walked that back.

JONES: I think that's right.

Part of I think the challenge for the Tea Party is they talk a lot about liberty. They don't talk as much about liberty and justice for all. There's a sense that they have a very narrow, almost negative view of what American patriotism is all about. And for those of us who consider ourselves to be deep patriots who want to see the full promise of America realized, who love the Statue of Liberty and therefore love immigration and love immigrants and think we're a nation of immigrants, who are deep patriots who believe in America the beautiful and therefore want to defend America's environment against polluters, we find that we can't quite figure out how to be in a conversation about what it means to be an American with the Tea Party ethic and their ethos, the way that they approach problems.

It's tough for us to figure out how to work together and I think it's important.

COOPER: But, Ari, just to the Boehner example on Obamacare, is that an example where -- can a Republican, a leading Republican now, fight back against the Tea Party if they so choose? If they wanted to, can they speak out against them? It seems there's a lot of people afraid to kind of voice any opposition or have that public discussion.

FLEISCHER: Well, look, John Boehner also today put the idea of taxes on the table. He hasn't caught the flak you would have thought for that.

At the end of the day, it's the job of both the president to split from the liberal base of his party and it's the job of the Republicans to split in some ways from the most vociferous base of the conservative party, conservative movement if we're going to accomplish anything. No one is going to get everything they want in this new divided Washington.

And what I think the American people are tired of is everybody fighting and the nation getting nothing. Both sides have to do some of it. The Tea Party does make it more difficult for the speaker. On the other hand, the Tea Party are the ones who woke the Republican Party up to the fact that we're a nation going broke and we really do have to take it on.

COOPER: All right, Ari, appreciate you being on. Van Jones as well, thanks very much.

The Obama campaign had a secret weapon it used to defeat Mitt Romney, a highly technical sophisticated data-mining operations. It's really fascinating. We will take a look at how it worked. We're going to kind of pull back the curtain and take you behind the scenes next.


COOPER: First Superstorm Sandy, now another storm. Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers still left in the dark tonight. Where is the power? What's being done to bring it back? I'll talk with a resident of hard-hit Staten Island, outraged at the situation, ahead.


COOPER: Up close tonight, a personal look at the previously unknown secret operation the Obama campaign used to defeat Mitt Romney. As you've heard about or as you're about to learn, this operation was so highly organized, technical and computerized, it could become a template for future campaigns.

President Obama spent months on the campaign trail, of course, but so did Mitt Romney. The president shook hands, posed for photos with voters. So did Mitt Romney. The Obama campaign spent millions on radio and TV ads. Obviously, the Romney campaign did, as well. So what was the ultimate difference between the two in terms of their operations?

Well, Obama's data mining operation, micro-targeting voters. "TIME" magazine's White House correspondent, Michael Scherer got an exclusive inside look at the operation. He joins me now.

Michael, this is so fascinating stuff, this whole notion of micro-targeting. Explain what that is and what surprised you most about it?

MICHAEL SCHERER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "TIME" MAGAZINE: There are a lot of different things that fall under that umbrella, but basically what happened is after 2008, the Obama team -- it was mostly the same team -- came back together and said, "We want to do this the way we always wanted to. We're going to -- we're going to build this campaign from the ground up."

And so they invested heavily early last year in a huge amount of technical support staff, analytic people. They had a chief scientist, data base engineers. And they really reengineered the whole Democratic voter file so that it can now not just be a voter file for reaching voters, but it can include fund-raising information that they collected from donors. It could also include all the information they gathered online. It could be overlaid on social networks like Facebook.

And so they created basically a holistic system where they could not just target people, but figure out the best ways to target people. And so in practice what it meant was almost everything that was happening in the Chicago headquarters, the whole campaign was being tested over and over again, analyzed for ways to improve things.

And so even the smallest decisions, like who to host a fund- raiser or what to put in an e-mail or how to design a Web page, was actually tested against data they had collected.

COOPER: Right. And you mentioned like George Clooney, they -- you could win a dinner with him and President Obama and also with Sarah Jessica Parker in New York. That was -- that was tested out before those people were picked, correct?

SCHERER: So what happened was they did the Clooney fund-raiser, obviously it was going to be a big draw, biggest Hollywood star there is. It was enormously successful for them, but they found when they were looking at the data, who was giving money to basically enter the drawing to appear at that dinner with George Clooney, that most of -- the demographic that was giving the most money were women between the ages of 40 and 49, and it was on the West Coast.

So they realized two things. One, this group -- women ages 40 to 49 -- like entering these kinds of contests. And two, there's a regional aspect to this, that people who live near Clooney's house are more interested in being a part of this sort of a fund-raiser.

So then when they went to look for a follow-up they had this information in their hands, and they started looking for someone who they could use on the East Coast. And that's how Sarah Jessica Parker came about. Someone who would appeal to that group of people and who would be in the New York area to try and tap into a new -- a new group of donors.

COOPER: And also, it's very scientific in terms of who they would have reach out to people in states. They learned it was better to have somebody from the state, from the area, reach out?

SCHERER: Yes, that's right. One of the big insights, actually, from 2008 is the best way to get some people to do things is to have someone from their neighborhood, even better, someone they actually know, tell them to do it. And they actually used this not just in their field organizing but they, at the end of the campaign, they had thousands of people had signed up for a Facebook app for the campaign. When you signed up for the app, you basically gave the campaign all the information about who your Facebook friends were. They overlaid that data with their own databases, and they were then able to ask you to target the people they wanted to get at.

So if you were part of this Facebook app you were getting messages in the final days, saying message your friends, you know, Joe Schmo...

COOPER: Amazing.

SCHERER: ... in Colorado or in Texas. And when you did that, they knew, because they'd tested this, as well, that the likelihood that your friend, Joe, would act on your recommendation -- go vote, go register, early voting's open, whatever it was -- was far higher than if the campaign just sent them an e-mail.

COOPER: Wow. Do you think this changes the game for future campaigns?

SCHERER: It definitely -- I mean, it's a continue. In four years, the technology will probably be light years ahead, but it definitely changes the game.

And it also, because you had an incumbent re-elected, and they were able to invest all the millions of dollars they did in this, it puts Democrats at a significant advantage and Republicans do have a lot of catch-up to do over the next two and four years. COOPER: Not having a primary fight certainly helped out in that, devoting resources.


COOPER: Michael Scherer, appreciate it. Fascinating stuff.

Coming up next, the number of people now without power in New York is actually up from yesterday. And as people shiver in the dark, they're boiling over at power companies and the government. We'll talk to one hard-hit resident of Staten Island when we continue.


COOPER: With the country he claims to lead in revolt, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad vows to live or die in his homeland and issues a stark warning. That message, coming up.


COOPER: Well, digging deeper, late word tonight that starting tomorrow, people in New York's five boroughs and Long Island's two counties will have to check their license plates before trying to fill up with gas. Officials announcing odd/even gas rationing to try and shrink the long gas lines and shortages that sprang up after Sandy hit.

New York Mayor Bloomberg saying only one in four city gas stations are open. That's not all. A week and a half since Sandy, a day after a bad nor'easter, an awful lot of people, especially in New York and New Jersey, still without power: 666,000 customers. That's actually up from yesterday, thanks to that nor'easter.

People are cold. They're living in dark, damaged houses. They say they're getting the run-around from state and federal agencies and utility companies. Listen to this woman who lives in Staten Island.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is the generator to heat, to plug in one heater and one light bulb? That I can survive? I'm a United States citizen.


COOPER: She's angry at Con Ed and FEMA.

FEMA says it has 15 relief centers now across New York City but hopes to double that number by the weekend and have 50 centers up and running eventually.

As for the power company, in this case Con Ed, there's a catch- 22. They won't turn on the power until homeowners get their houses inspected for potentially lethal wiring damage, but electricians are hard to come by, and the company isn't providing any. A company spokesman saying quote, "Utility companies like Con Edison don't have electricians. The people have to do that on their own. It's their home, their property, their equipment. This is a safety measure."

Nick Camerada and his wife, Diane, join us now from Staten Island. They're living along with their kids without power in a house heated only by propane stoves. I appreciate both of you being with us.

Nick, you still don't have power. You don't have gas. What are authorities saying to you today? Is there a plan to help? Have you heard from them?

NICK CAMERADA, STATEN ISLAND RESIDENT: Yes. I just had the plumber come in to do -- look around. He says that everything that I did with the boiler to get it up and running as fast as I could was perfect. He would OK it once we had power and gas restored.

My meter, I only had -- my meter wasn't underwater. My panel was -- four breakers on the panel were submerged. I already replaced the breakers on the panel. But he was telling me that Bloomberg may have shot down the program, because they're afraid of restoring the power and being responsible for people's houses burning down. And...

COOPER: Right. Have you got word from FEMA? I mean, have you talked to FEMA?

N. CAMERADA: FEMA came by, did their measurements, you know. They came and went. This is -- this is really ridiculous, you know. I'm going to stick it out, you know. I have no choice. I have nowhere to go. And this is all I got over here.

And I'm probably not the only one that's bearing the storm and bearing -- bearing this tremendous inconvenience by the city. I mean, this is New York City. We should be, you know, prepared for stuff like this. We shouldn't have to be waiting out in the cold for power and gas to be restored after, you know, so many days went by.

I know this was a tremendous devastation, but you know, this is 2012. You know, this is -- this is, you know, modern technology. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we need power, we need gas down here right away. That's it.

COOPER: Diane -- Diane, as a mom, what's it like to see your kids going through this?

DIANA CAMERADA, STATEN ISLAND RESIDENT: This is devastating. I mean, my youngest is 8 years old. I have to dress him in layers. We have to do homework with blankets; not just one blanket, two, three blankets on, and he's freezing. And I have to, like, keep him on my lap and make him do homework with me.

Believe me, I've had offers for people to take us in and get hot showers. And I thank them from the bottom of my heart, but I can't leave my home. I can't leave -- I'm afraid to leave my home. I don't want what I have left to be taken from me and for my kids to be even more devastated than what they are.

And to watch my kids shiver and say, "Oh, Mom, when are we even going to have like heat in this house? It's so cold. And why are the windows open?" And to try to explain to an 8-year-old, "No, Vin, the windows aren't open," it's hard. It's hard. And it breaks my heart. I mean, I try to make the best of it. It's just hard. It's very difficult.

COOPER: Well, Nick and Diane Camerada, we're going to continue to follow you and -- and folks throughout this entire region. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. And we'll see what we -- how quickly power can get restored for you. Thank you so much for being with us.

D. CAMERADA: Thank you.

COOPER: Retired congresswoman Gabby Giffords face to face today in court with the man who shot her, Jared Loughner. His sentence, ahead on 360.


ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

A judge sentenced Jared Loughner to life in prison today without the possibility of parole. Some of his victims addressed him in court. Loughner, who has schizophrenia, pleaded guilty to the 2011 mass shooting that killed six people and injured 13, including former congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. She was in the courtroom today.

Syrian President Bashar Assad today vowed to live or die in his homeland and also issued a stark warning. He said foreign intervention in Syria's bloody conflict would have a domino effect that would come at an unbearable cost.

U.S. officials say that two Iranian fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf days before the U.S. presidential election. The drone, which was in international air space east of Kuwait, wasn't hit.

The U.S. Postal Service is predicting its busiest holiday season ever. It expects to handle 365 million packages, a 20 percent spike over last year.

And an emotional visit for President Obama yesterday in Chicago. He stopped by his campaign headquarters to thank staffers for their hard work and shed some tears.



(END VIDEO CLIP) SESAY: A new mother in Kenya has named her twin boys Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. They were born yesterday. No word on which baby won the race to be firstborn -- Anderson.

COOPER: Americans voted on election day. Now, they're expecting their elected leaders and representatives to get to work. We saw throughout the campaign, fixing the economy, solving the debt crisis, were the top issues for voters. Americans are tired of waiting. They want action, as Tom Foreman found out in tonight's "Building Up America" report.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just an hour outside of D.C., people in the small town of Washington, Virginia, spent months waiting to see what the election would bring their way. And many, like cabinetmaker Peter Kramer, say they didn't much care about whether the Democrats or Republicans would win, just as long as the creeping economy starts racing again.

PETER KRAMER, WASHINGTON RESIDENT: I'm saying it's both of those people's fault, and, yes, somebody fix it. Let's get some people in Washington who want to sit down and say, "Let's solve the problem and stop the gridlock."

FOREMAN: Next door at the Stonyman Gourmet Farmer's Cafe, Susan James spent the run-up to the election feeling much the same way.

SUSAN JAMES, OWNER, STONYMAN GOURMET FARMER'S CAFE: Certainly the economy has changed the way we conduct business, and it's changed decisions we've made. Major decisions.

FOREMAN: Instead of expanding her family-owned business, she kept a close eye on costs, steered clear of debt and watched the electoral process play out.

(on camera) What is it that you most want to see from Washington, D.C.?

JAMES: Leadership and stepping up. The game of passing the buck, blaming the other guy, sounds as if the way my brother and I used to fight when we were 7 years old, and people know it. We don't want that.

FOREMAN (voice-over): It was that way all over town before the election. Many like jewelry maker Caitlin Mullen were unsure what would happen with taxes, jobs...

CAITLIN MULLEN, JEWELRY MAKER: I think a lot of people are just scared to commit a large amount of money to anything, whether it be a couple hundred dollars for custom jewelry or a home. You know, a lot of people are nervous.

FOREMAN: No one expects any quick fix for the economy.

JAMES: It's big, and it's going to take some time and a lot of work, and it will be nice to get at it.

FOREMAN: But they are more than ready to start building up again, just as soon as the other Washington settles down and gets back to work.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington, Virginia.


COOPER: "The RidicuList" is up next. Confusion over MIT sweatshirts at polling places nearly cost two people their right to vote.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Tonight, we are adding confusing sweatshirts. That's right, damn you confusing sweatshirts.

So here's what happened. There was an election the other day. Perhaps you heard about it. Now this election involved many things: candidates, ballots, Wolf Blitzer hollering "Stand by, we have a projection" every five minutes or so. The election also involved people known as voters.

Now, I'm no John King, but from what I understand, voters when voting typically wear what those of us in the mainstream media refer to as clothes. And therein lies the problem, at least in two locations, in Colorado and Florida.

You see election officials were reportedly alarmed to see voters showing up in clothing emblazoned with the name "Mitt," a violation of election laws that prohibit campaigning for a candidate within a certain number of feet from voting booths. The problem? The shirts did not say "Mitt". They said "MIT," as in Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the top colleges in the country, by the way. Mr. Romney's name, in case it wasn't clear, is spelled with two "T's."

Now, I'm seriously not making this up. But look, I give election workers a lot of credit. They're helping our democracy. It's thankless work. What's more, you really can't blame them for thinking the Romney campaign might have misspelled their candidate's name. Remember this: the Romney campaign's iPhone app that allowed you to take a photo with the words "A Better America" superimposed over it, except they misspelled the word "America" as "Amercia."

Look, I don't want to be a stickler about this, but you know, I'm just really particular about spelling. And frankly, I think anyone who isn't a good speller should be embarrassed.


COOPER: Malleable, M-A-L- -- M-A-L-I-A-B-L-E. Wait a minute. What did I say? Hold on! M-A-L-I-A-B-L-E.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry. COOPER: I hate this game!


COOPER: Yes. I lost the spelling bee to a 12-year-old. So what? So what?

But MIT, I mean, come on. It's not exactly an unknown school. It's got some brilliant students and, frankly, some pretty smart staffers.


MATT DAMON, ACTOR: You dropped 150 grand on a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) education that you could have got for $1.50 in late charges at the public library.


COOPER: Yes, that's right. You mess with MIT, you get a little "Good Will Hunting" up in your grill.

As for the voters who were singled out because of their shirts, they were allowed to vote after other election workers stepped in to clarify the situation.

As for Governor Romney, he may have lost the election, but victory will always be spelled "M-I-T" on "The RidicuList."

OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.