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Hurricane Matthew Targets Florida; Trump Taking Part in Town Hall Ahead of Next Debate; Poll: Clinton Leading Trump By 11 Points in Michigan. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 6, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: historic hurricane -- the Southeastern U.S. bracing for what could be the most powerful storm to hit the region in more than a decade, Matthew, now a devastating Category 4 hurricane, poised to slam into Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Who will take a direct hit?

Eye of the storm. Wind and rain are picking up tonight all along Florida's east coast, as Matthew marches north. The forecast is getting grimmer by the hour, with the hurricane showing no sign of weakening. It's already killed more than 100 people. Will the death toll climb?

Fear of flooding. The National Hurricane Center says Matthew's storm surge is life-threatening. Some areas may face a wall of water 11- feet high. Which coastal community will be inundated?

And fleeing the coast. Millions of people in three states are being told to evacuate, as Matthew threatens to strafe hundreds of miles of coastline with winds up to 140 miles an hour. The message from officials tonight, get out now. This storm, they say, will kill you. How many will heed the warning?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, new life-or-death warnings tonight about Hurricane Matthew.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a new update, calling Matthew -- and I'm quoting now -- "an extremely dangerous hurricane," and potentially disastrous impacts for Florida. Right now, the Category 4 storm is unleashing 140-mile-an-hour winds, and a storm surge of up to 15 feet in parts of the Bahamas. And Florida is forecast to face that, possibly even worse, within hours.

The governor, Rick Scott, told me just a little while ago millions of people in his state will lose power. He's deployed more than 3,000 National Guard troops and tonight he's imploring the millions of people under evacuation orders to leave or risk their lives.

Take a look at this live radar images coming in of the monster storm as its bands of rain and wind are beginning to lash the Florida coast.

We're covering all angles of the breaking news this hour. Our correspondents are positioned in key locations up and down the East Coast. The director of the National Weather Service will join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM momentarily. And our meteorologist, correspondents, and our expert analysts are also standing by.

But let's begin with CNN's Brian Todd. He's in South Carolina for us.

Brian, mandatory evacuation orders are in effect where you are. What's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the governor has ordered evacuations for several counties in the Charleston area, but she is really worried tonight that not enough people are evacuating.

And here, as is the case in Florida, in Georgia, the window to get out is closing dangerously fast.


TODD (voice-over): Winds up to 140 miles per hour with lashing rains and storm surges of five to nine feet causing major coastal flooding, that is what millions of Americans will be facing within hours, just like the Bahamas did this morning, due to Hurricane Matthew.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We have to prepare for a direct hit.

TODD: Hurricane hunter aircraft reporting on the strength of the approaching winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a pretty violent roller coaster at times.

TODD: Officials using severe warnings to urge coastal residents to leave.

SCOTT: If you need to evacuate and you haven't, evacuate. This storm will kill you.

TODD: The storm already killed more than 100 in Haiti, then hit the Bahamas this morning with stinging wind and heavy rain. High winds and flying debris, storm surge and coastal flooding, heavy rains and power outages likely to hit the Florida coast from Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on north overnight.

RICK KNABB, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: The unique factor is this awful track that is going to affect so many large population centers in multiple states.

TODD: Several thousand National Guard troops have been activated across three states, two million told to evacuate in Florida, 500,000 each in Georgia and South Carolina due to a forecast trap that rips across the coast. Further up the coast in Georgia, at least one highway, I-75, showing a 20-mile backup.

And South Carolina, where they reverse-laned some highways, residents were urged to step up the pace.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We need to have more people evacuating.

TODD: Those who ignore warnings and vow to stay behind are essentially told, you're on your own.

BUDDY EMERSON, ST. LUCIE FIRE CHIEF: We cannot respond after the winds reach 50 miles an hour.

TODD: The storm expected to move up through Georgia Friday night and South Carolina Saturday before veering off east into the Atlantic.


TODD: Now, with evacuation orders covering more than two million people in Florida, Georgia and here in South Carolina, this is the largest evacuation in the United States since superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast four years ago.


But, again, officials worry tonight that not enough people are leaving their areas, and they are warning people that once the storm hits, at the height of the storm, first-responders will not be able to get to them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, I understand police on the island where you are about to take extraordinary measures to get people to safety. What are you hearing?

TODD: I just talked to the police chief here in Folly Island, South Carolina. Wolf, this is a barrier island that protects some of the areas inland from storms like this.

But this gets hit very hard. They're going to go door to door tomorrow morning to give people a final warning to get out. About 3,500 people live here year-round. About half of them have evacuated. The police chief says that's not enough. They're going door to door tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd in South Carolina for us, stand by.

I want to go right to our meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's in Melbourne, Florida, which is bracing for a direct hit fairly soon.

What's the latest over there, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, even since we talked to you about 30 minutes ago, the winds have definitely picked up, and every now and then, you will get a pretty strong gust.

Feels like to me like they're nearing tropical-storm-force gusts. We're not in the sustained winds yet. It's only going to get worse. Look over my shoulder and you can see the water crashing over that wall. When we came out here a couple of hours ago, we didn't see any of that.

So it's just subtle changes that show you that this storm is inching closer. We're expecting water above my head by this time tomorrow morning. We're expecting seven to 11 feet of storm surge. That is why officials were urging people out here on Melbourne Beach, on this barrier island, get out, because water is going to come so high, not only the storm surge, but you add on top of the wave heights.

We could see 20-to-30-foot waves and then the rain. And so it is so important that people get out, because when we're in the height of the storm, and you're left out there and you need help, no one is going to be able to help you. That's what officials have been so afraid of during this hurricane drought that we have had over the last 10 years, is that when we have a really big one come, a this is a big one, that people aren't going to heed those warnings.

Complacency, that's the biggest fear. So people need to find their safe place. They need to get inland. They need to get to higher ground, if you can, and just stay out of harm's way as best you can. We are expecting conditions to deteriorate rapidly once the sun goes down, Wolf.

And then the height of the storm will be here around the Melbourne area by the wee hours of the morning and around daybreak. But we're in this for the long haul. It's going to be a rough, long night for a lot of people along the Space Coast, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's not too late to evacuate, as they say. If you're in harm's way, this is the moment. Get out and get out quickly. Jennifer Gray, our meteorologist, thank you. We will get back to you.



BLITZER: Let's get some more now on Hurricane Matthew. The director of the National Weather Service, Louis Uccellini, is joining us right now.

Louis, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: So, what is the latest information you're getting? Where is this storm likely to hit the U.S. the hardest?

UCCELLINI: Well, the storm right now is a Category 4 storm carrying up to 140-mile-an-hour winds

It's approaching the Florida coast at an oblique angle. A slight shift could mean the difference for areas near West Palm Beach up towards Melbourne. Right now, it looks like it's going to come on the coast near Melbourne, the Cape Canaveral area.

And it should maintain its Cat 4 status as it's approaching the coast. So, that means 140-mile-an-hour winds are possible right near the eye wall as it is approaching the coast.

BLITZER: When do you think that will hit land, this hurricane will actually make land?

UCCELLINI: We're looking at a time frame later tonight, early tomorrow morning in that area. It's coming in at a oblique angle. A slight shift one way or another could actually affect the timing of this.

But right now, it really looks like it's directed towards that part of the coast. And, remember, the effects -- no matter whether it exactly hits the coast, the effects will spread out along...


BLITZER: How far will they spread out?

UCCELLINI: Well, as this track of the coast is going to parallel the coast, as it moves northward, so we're looking at the whole area for potentially devastating impacts, from that area, south of Melbourne, Florida, all the way up towards the Georgia coast tomorrow. So, we're really looking at a potentially disastrous storm.

BLITZER: So, right now, what you're saying is, people may be beginning in the Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, in that area, but going north along the Florida coast up to Georgia, up to potentially South Carolina, maybe even North Carolina, all of that area could be impacted?

UCCELLINI: That's right.

And we're not only looking at impacts immediately along the coast, as we saw heavy rainfall inland. We have flooding potential with this storm, and the storm surge is -- along the coast itself could create a lot of damage. Wherever that hits, right now, we're looking at potential over six feet, again from that area along the Florida coast, the central Eastern Coast up towards the Georgia coast.


BLITZER: So it's going to be a few more areas before it actually hits. Could the storm intensify between now and then?

UCCELLINI: We're not looking for any further intensification. In fact, as it moves north, it's going to encounter more shear. And that tends to weaken storms. Right now, we have two hurricane hunters out there.

We are still seeing a decrease in pressure at the center of the storm.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

UCCELLINI: Well, the storm is still deepening. As it's exiting the Bahamas area, it's still deepening. The wind field is well-defined along that eye. There's some indication of the eye wall itself going through a

modification here, an evolution. There could be periods of weakening, but we do believe it is going to sustain its Cat 4 status as it approaches the coast.

BLITZER: Why is this monster storm, based on the words we're hearing from the governor, from you, from others, seemingly so dangerous right now, more dangerous than we have heard from other hurricanes in a long time?

UCCELLINI: Well, it's really the first storm in over a decade now that's actually encountering Florida at this magnitude.


The last one was Wilma in October of 2005. So it's been 11 years since we have had a major hurricane approach Florida, and this one making landfall this evening will make the first one in 11 years to actually make landfall.

BLITZER: What about like -- give us a comparison, this monster storm to Katrina, let's say, or Andrew back in the early '90s.

UCCELLINI: It's always dangerous making comparison.

It's kind of a different kind of track approaching the coast. It's a smaller storm. Where it does hit, it's going to be very intense system. And this is why the local officials, who are working very closely with us, are evacuating a large area, because of that oblique angle as it approaches the coast. It could be a very dangerous storm for a large area and affect many people.

BLITZER: Not just dangerous, but deadly, too.

UCCELLINI: A deadly storm.

BLITZER: All right, Louis, I want you to stay with us. Louis Uccellini is here, the director of the National Weather Service.

We're going to take a quick break. We're getting more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We will update you on that. We will be right back.



BLITZER: We are following the breaking news, Florida right now bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew.

The Category 4 storm is on track to be the most powerful to strike the state in more than a decade.

We're back with the director of the National Weather Service, Louis Uccellini.

But, first, I want to go to CNN's Sara Sidner. She is in Daytona Beach for us right now, where the strength is clearly increasing.

Sara, what are you seeing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. The wind is really, really picking up.

We are finally seeing very few people on the beach, Wolf. I do want to give you a look at the beach right now, just taking a look down, beautiful Daytona Beach. It is completely empty. We had just seen the lifeguards come through. They have put up little barricades to make sure that people are not in the way, if they do need to bring down vehicles here when this storm passes through.

I do want to tell you that I talked to the police chief here, Mike Chitwood. He was very adamant that people get the heck away from the coast and he also said that every single one of his officers will be on duty, starting at 6:00 p.m. But they will not be able to save you. If you decide to stay in the storm's path, if you decide not to evacuate like you're supposed to, they have been very clear about that. They're not going to kill themselves trying to get to you.

You have been warned. They have said it over and over and over again. But they are ready and waiting for the storm to pass through, so they can immediately come out and start checking out the scene and seeing if anyone did stay and if they do need help, but, again, very dangerous winds. They're expecting lots of wind and rain, and we are starting to see that.

It's starting to push. This surf is usually very, very calm. And you can see very choppy now. You're getting to see a lot of waves. They are getting bigger and bigger and bigger as the hours pass by. And we are starting to see some of those rain clouds starting to push right over us, Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara Sidner in Daytona Beach for us, Sara, thank you.

Storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski is joining us the phone right now.

Jeff, you're in Jensen Beach, Florida. What are you seeing out there on the roads?

JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER: Wolf, just moments after I hung with you earlier, we had a little small vortex here, not a full-blown tornado, but a small little spin-out between some buildings here.

It went right across the front of my vehicle and had flying debris. And since then, I now have damage on my wide shot here. We have got some (INAUDIBLE) that are breaking down and have torn off the wall here, and the winds are gusting 65. Hurricane-force winds now are 20 miles off the coast from Jensen Beach. They're making their way

They will be on landfall within 7:30, 8:00 time frame. We will have hurricane-force winds at Jensen Beach up to Fort Pierce on up the coast toward Melbourne. But hurricane-force winds are about an hour away now, based on radar. The winds are gusting in excess of 65 at my location, Jensen Beach, with damage. I have got wide damage now occurring.

BLITZER: Have you seen -- are you seeing people still on the roads right now?


BLITZER: Or have most of the people evacuated?

PIOTROWSKI: No, everybody -- most of the people are gone.

This place is deserted. I'm still by the mobile home court, where I still have about a dozen elderly people that did not evacuate. Still concerned about those people if the winds get up higher here. And it looks like the most intense winds are going to go to the north and it may spare this place here, this mobile home court with these elderly people in it on the barrier island. But I'm still very concerned about that.

But, right now, the hurricane-force winds are approaching our location. They're only about 20 miles off the coast. They will be here within the next hour, hour-and-a-half, and then things are going to go downhill rapidly after about 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

BLITZER: I assume, Jeff, you have notified authorities about these elderly people who are refusing to leave their mobile homes right along the coast there, because they are extremely vulnerable.

PIOTROWSKI: Yes, they are very vulnerable.

As a matter of fact, Wolf, one of the vortexes spun up right in front of me moments ago. It was literally about 50 yards from this mobile home complex. And if that had just been a stronger vortex -- and it was moving southwestward to the mobile home court. If it -- it could have easily picked up a mobile home and done damage there.

And this is going to increase with intensity as the eye approaches. And I will you, the winds shift -- the winds offshore here, about 80 miles here, the core winds of 120-to-140-mile-an-hour winds, are only about 75 miles southeast of my location, now tracking toward the northwest.

So, the very destructive winds are only 75 miles off the coast now making their way to the northwest.

BLITZER: So I assume they're closing bridges, closing roads. Have you seen any of those 3,500 National Guard troops that Governor Scott of Florida has activated?


PIOTROWSKI: I have not seen the troops, but I have seen the Florida State Patrol, as well as the local county sheriffs here all along the state have got all the bridges closed. They are out in full force.

And they're taking this extremely serious, like no other hurricane I have seen in Florida in a long time. Everybody is really taking this very, very seriously.

Like I said, I cannot emphasize how bad the damage could be if this eye comes ashore up toward the cape, as well as up toward the Kennedy Space Center, as well as possible -- Daytona Beach, up toward Jackson. There's going to be a lot of damage up that direction.

BLITZER: The storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski.

Jeff, be careful over there. I know you always are. We will check back with you as well for an update.

Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, is still with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You just heard those reports. It's pretty frightening, especially when you hear about elderly people refusing to leave their mobile homes right along the coast. These people are in incredibly great danger.

UCCELLINI: Well, this is one of the challenges that the state and local officials face when they ordering evacuations, encouraging people to leave.

We really have to -- we continue to work with people as the events unfold to provide them the latest information, but they really have the tough job in convincing people of the dangers that they are going to face if they stay.

BLITZER: Yes, they think they can ride it out. It's hard enough to ride it out in a big building, let alone in a mobile home.

UCCELLINI: That's correct, especially you are going to have very strong winds, potential of tornadoes in parts of these storms, the strong rains, heavy flooding, a tremendously dangerous storm.

BLITZER: So, in addition to the hurricane, we could see tornadoes develop?


So, there are outlooks for the northern part of the storm as it makes landfall this potential for isolated tornadoes to form. We have seen this with hurricanes in the past. And it's one of those hazards that we have to watch out for.

BLITZER: And you mentioned that this hurricane, Matthew, it could hit Florida, let's say, go back out to sea, make a U-turn, and come back for a second landfall in Florida?


So, over the next five days, all of the numerical guidance now is pointing to a storm that is going to turn out to sea off the Carolina coast, and then move back around and approach Florida again about five days from now, as a weakened storm, but still one that has to be watched. BLITZER: Explain to viewers. When we say this is a Category 4 hurricane, what does that mean exactly? Because a lot of viewers, they sort of get numb. Category 4, what does that mean?

UCCELLINI: Well, the Category 3, 4 and 5 storms are considered major storms. They have wind speeds that exceed 135 miles per hour. As you approach the Category 4 storm like today, we're up to 140 miles an hour.

These are very strong, life-threatening wind fields. And they create a lot of damage, devastating damage when they encounter the structures, the buildings on land. So, we have demarcation zones for these storms. And you get above a Cat 3, into Cat 4 and Cat 5, you're looking at storms that can really create devastating damage, life- threatening. You should be leaving.

BLITZER: And I know, Louis, you want to thank some of the heroes out there that don't get a lot of publicity.

UCCELLINI: Well, I want to acknowledge that, even as this storm was approaching, we have forecasters, technicians at the Hurricane Center and local forecast office working with local emergency mangers, first- responders up and down the coast. They are today's heroes.

They're out there saving lives. And we have this tremendous partnership that we have developed with the first-responders and emergency management community, which has allowed us to really address the dangers associated with these storms.

BLITZER: We want to thank all of those people, because you're absolutely right. The information they're providing us, the work that they're doing will save lives. This is a deadly, deadly monster storm.

Louis Uccellini, thanks very much for coming in.

UCCELLINI: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Up next, more on the breaking news. We're going back live to Florida. We're bracing tonight for Hurricane Matthew.

We will update our viewers. We will be right back.


BLITZER: Breaking news this hour. Very grim warnings to those in the path of Hurricane Matthew. If you haven't yet evacuated, officials say leave now or risk your life.

[18:33:52] The powerful Category 4 storm is forecast to pound Florida's East Coast with catastrophic 140-mile-an-hour winds, as it moves north towards the coast of Georgia, then out to South Carolina. The National Hurricane Center calls the impact potentially disastrous. President Obama already has signed emergency declarations for Florida and South Carolina. CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in Melbourne, Florida, for us right

now. That area where you are, Jennifer, is expected to be hit very, very hard. I want you to be careful. What's the latest?

GRAY: Yes, it is supposed to be hit very hard, Wolf. And we will. We're actually going to move inland when conditions start to deteriorate even more, once the sun goes down.

But you know, you look behind me, and it's these subtle changes that speak volumes. It's the water now coming over the wall, where a couple of hours ago, it wasn't -- that wasn't happening at all.

So we're expecting an incredible amount of storm surge. We could see record storm surge across portions of the space coast. We could see 6 to 11 feet of storm surge. That's going to be well above my head. One of the reasons we're going to push inland to get to safety.

But look at that barrier island. That's Melbourne Beach, and that is one of the barrier islands, one of the many that were ordered to evacuate. You can only hope that those peopleevacuated, they are no longer there, hopefully. Emergency managers really have no idea how many people are left out there, if any. They won't know that until, unfortunately, emergency calls start to come in.

At that point, it's too late.

[18:35:22] This has been the biggest fear for forecasters over the last decade, complacency, because we haven't had a major storm in more than ten years. And so getting that, and getting people to heed those warnings, to get to safety, is the biggest challenge, because they don't -- these people say, "Oh, I rode out Wilma" or "I rode out Andrew. I'll be OK." Every storm has a different personality. This storm is completely different than Andrew, than Wilma, than all the storms before. It is going to ride up the coast. We could see devastating damage all up and down the East Coast of Florida. And so it's so important, Wolf, for people to get to safety and heed those warnings.

BLITZER: All right, Jennifer, thank you. Be careful over there. Jennifer Gray reporting.

I want to get some more on the storm right now. The deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, Ed Rappaport, is joining us. Ed, how powerful could this hurricane be by the time it hits?

ED RAPPAPORT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER; Right now it's at Category 4 intensity. We don't think it will be much change. Perhaps it will weaken five or ten miles per hour, but that's not going to make a difference. It will still be what we call a major hurricane, Category 3 or Category 4, along the central coast of -- East Coast of Florida.

And it's partial confirmation of what we're expecting, this outer eyewall here just went across Settlement Point on the northwestern side of Grand Bahama Island, and they reported a sustained wind of 75 miles per hour and a gust of 105 miles per hour. And they still have the inner eyewall, which is the more intense area, with those 140- mile-per-hour winds approaching them. So both Settlement Point and Freeport are about to get the worst of the storm.

BLITZER: Some estimate that this storm could be the worst to hit Florida in decades. Is that right?

RAPPAPORT: It will depend on where the track goes. And the forecast right now takes the center up towards the coast. Here's the Florida East Coast. The red is where we have a hurricane warning in effect. And the forecast takes the center right along the coast, bringing that core area to the coast and even inland a bit. And if it does that, then yes, we're going to expect major damage.

Unfortunately, there's going to be a potential for loss of life. And the greatest risk, as you've been hearing and saying, is from storm surge. Where the winds blow onshore, it's going to pile the water up on the coast, and as much as 6 to 11 feet of water is expected. That's the rise of water along the coast. It will spread inland. There will be waves on top of that. That's our greatest concern now.

BLITZER: We just heard Louis Uccellini of the National Weather Service, who's the director, say this storm could actually hit Florida, head out back into the Atlantic, make a U-turn and hit Florida a second time. What can you tell us about that?

RAPPAPORT: Well, it's a possibility. In fact, here's our extended forecast, where it does come back offshore. We're most concerned, though, of course, with the next couple of days, where Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are at great risk from a major hurricane.

If the storm does turn to the south -- that's a possibility, as we're forecasting -- most of those storms weaken. And in fact, we forecast that it will be back down to a tropical storm.

So even if it came back towards us in Florida, it would be much weaker. The biggest risk is now the next 12 to 36 hours along the southeastern coast.

BLITZER: This could be very deadly, unfortunately. All right, Ed Rappaport, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, thanks for that update.

We're going to continue to follow the breaking news. Much more right after this quick break.


[18:43:16] BLITZER: Continuing to follow Hurricane Matthew, the killer Category 4 storm now closing in on Florida. I want to go back to our meteorologist, Jennifer Gray. She's got new information in Melbourne, Florida. What else are you learning, Jennifer?

GRAY: Wolf, this storm is massive, 140-mile-per-hour winds, right around that center. And it's not just going to make a landfall, go inland and start to weaken. This is going to stay very strong as it continues to crawl up the coastline. Conditions here will deteriorate once the sun goes down. You can see

behind me water already starting to crash over this wall right here. Just subtle changes that are speaking volumes when we're out here talking about this storm, inching closer and closer.

This is Indian River. Of course, the barrier island is on the other side. That is Melbourne beach, and that is the barrier island where they said get off. Get to safety, because the storm surge will be 6 to 11 feet right here along the space coast. It will be well above my head. And they're afraid that, if people are out there, they get stuck out there, and emergency people will not be able to get to them. Because you not only have the storm surge, Wolf; you have the waves on top of that.

And so it is going to be -- just inundate this area. We're talking about one particular area of Florida. We're talking about the possibility of miles and miles of coastline that could be devastated by this hurricane.

And so like I said, conditions deteriorating as we go through the late evening overnight hours, and then making a brush with the coast by the time we get into the wee hours of the morning, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they say anywhere from Palm Beach County up north all the way to Jacksonville and beyond. We'll see what happens. Jennifer, thanks very much.

We're going to have much more on this unfolding emergency in a little bit. But right now, I want to get an update on the presidential campaigns here in the United States.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they are focusing in on their next big debate, just three days away. CNN's Phil Mattingly is covering the Trump campaign for us.

Phil, Donald Trump is getting, what, a practice run tonight? What are you hearing?

[18:45:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. And it's practice that Donald Trump needs, if only for this reason. Unlike just about any other politician in recent history, he went through the Republican primary without a lot of experiences with town halls. Just didn't do them. He had the big rallies, not the one-on-one, sort of small term town halls you saw that repeatedly in New Hampshire.

That changes for at least 90 minutes tonight.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, let's take a few questions.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, Donald Trump holding a New Hampshire town hall, pulling back the secret world of debate prep. A similar format to Sunday's crucial debate. Tonight, moderated by supporter, talk radio host Howie Carr. It's a dry run his advisers acknowledge is increasingly necessary in the wake of poor first debate performance.

His running mate, Mike Pence, had a well-regarded debate performance this week. Something Trump himself has taken credit for.

TRUMP: I'm getting a lot of credit, because that's really my first so-called choice. That was my first hire, as we would say.

MATTINGY: And advisers tell CNN they're hoping Trump can emulate, even as Pence continues to defer to the GOP nominee.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really do think that whatever I was able to do the other night, that Donald Trump won the debate.

MATTINGLY: As Trump readies for debate number two, advisers tell CNN he's been watching the videotape of his first meeting with Clinton. Tonight's debate dry run comes as Trump's campaign looks to boost his historically low favorability ratings, with a new positive TV ad.

AD ANNOUNCER: What does electing Donald Trump mean for you? Families making $60,000 a year, you get a 20 percent tax rate reduction.

MATTINGLY: And as Trump himself pledges again not to bring up Bill Clinton's past infidelities, telling the "New York Post" he wants to, quote, "win this election on my policies for the future, not on Bill Clinton's past."

House Speaker Paul Ryan prepares to hit the trail with Trump in Wisconsin, a boost from the GOP's top elected leader.

And Trump's own surrogates are providing ammunition for Clinton, saying Trump's ban on Muslim immigration which Trump himself has never publicly backed off of doesn't stand.

PENCE: Because it's not Donald Trump's position. I'm proud to stand with him when he says that we need to suspend immigration from countries and territories that have been compromised by terrorism.

MATTINGLY: All this as Trump committed his own swing state faux pas Wednesday night, Nevada, Nevada.

TRUMP: It has to be Nevada, right? If you don't say it correctly, and it didn't happen to me but it happened to a friend of mine, he was killed.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, it's worth nothing, this isn't a traditional New Hampshire town hall. The guests there invited. They have to write their questions on a card. But it is good practice and it's practice that was pushed in part by top adviser, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie knows a thing or two about town halls, holding more than a hundred in New Jersey. And in his presidential campaign, more than 76 in New Hampshire alone,

that's an adviser you're going to have to keep a close eye on. He's been taking an increasingly large role in debate prep over the course of the last couple of days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly has. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

Now to the Clinton campaign. Our senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is here.

Brianna, there's a new poll out tonight showing Hillary Clinton, what, leading Donald Trump by 11 points in Michigan?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And it's a state, Wolf, that Hillary Clinton lost to Bernie Sanders in the primary and where Trump's criticism of Clinton's past support of trade deals plays well. Clinton has momentum right now and she's hoping that her surrogates can keep it going.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton is spending another day off the campaign trail as she prepares for her second debate showdown with Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: I'm looking forward to our next debate next Sunday. I thought the first one went pretty well.

KEILAR: While Clinton lays low, her campaign has two new ads hitting the airwaves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want a president who stands up against intolerance.

KEILAR: Portraying Clinton as the candidate who will stand up to injustice and fight for American families.

CLINTON: I spent my life fighting for kids and families. And it will be my mission to build a country where our children can rise as high as their dreams and hard work take them.

KEILAR: Though observers and polls show Mike Pence performed well at the vice presidential debate on Tuesday, Clinton is trying to divide the Republican ticket, joking that Pence failed to stand behind Trump's controversial statements which Clinton called indefensible.

CLINTON: When your own running mate won't defend the top of the ticket, I think that tells you everything you need to know, about who's qualified and temperamentally fit to be president. Even Mike Pence doesn't think Donald Trump is.

KEILAR: Tim Kaine joining that refrain, saying Pence threw Trump under the bus by not defending his running mate.

[18:50:05] SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there's a level of desperation in the Trump campaign right now. Donald clearly did a very, very poor job at the debate, at his first debate, and then two nights ago, his running mate basically threw him under the bus again and again and again.

KEILAR: Clinton is getting some backup on the trail today from major surrogate as her daughter Chelsea campaigns in Minnesota and Bernie Sanders holds four different events across blue collar Michigan.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: It is absolutely imperative that we elect Hillary Clinton as our next president.

KEILAR: And one of Clinton's best assets for rallying support, a popular President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not me going through the motions here. I really, really, really want to elect Hillary Clinton.

KEILAR: His approval ratings continue to climb. A new CNN/ORC poll finds 55 percent of Americans now say they approve of the job he's doing as president -- the highest rating of his second term.

Trump is taking attack on Hillary Clinton's top surrogates, her husband Bill, after his comments earlier this week criticizing the president's healthcare law.

TRUMP: Can you imagine when he walks home to that beautiful home in Westchester, and said, "Hillary, how was your day?" Oh did he suffer.


KEILAR: Well, part of Clinton's campaign strategy right snow is capitalizing on early voting in key battleground states and getting people to register before deadlines to vote. In Florida, the deadline to register by mail or in person is October 11th. That is on Tuesday.

On a conference call with reporters today, Clinton's campaign manager said he hopes the state will adapt deadlines to account for Hurricane Matthew. We don't know if that's going to happen, though, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if it does happen because of this hurricane.

Brianna, stay with us.

I also want to bring in David Axelrod, Ron Brownstein, David Swerdlick. We're going to talk about. We're going to talk about all this.

We're also putting following the breaking news out of hurricane Matthew.

Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[18:56:29] BLITZER: Our live coverage of Hurricane Matthew will continue in a moment. But, first, I want to get the expertise of our political panel.

David Axelrod, the Trump campaign has a new ad highlighting more positive tones, if you will. What do you expect Trump to do Sunday night in this debate?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the ad reflects the fact that people, he's mired in the low forties. People understand that or feel that he's all grievance and no solutions. He's trying to offer solutions. That's going to be important in a town hall meeting. I think you'll see more of that.

The question is whether he can make a real connection with these people. This is something he hasn't done all campaign.

The other thing is the ad refers to issues that are important to women and he's had a major problem with women. Big gender gap. He talks about leave for mothers and for child care taxes. He -- and child care tax relief. These are the kind of things I expect he'll stress on Sunday night.

BLITZER: Will this town hall format type of venue, if you will, Ron, will it change the way both candidates can attack the other?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a great question. You know, look, Hillary Clinton has put out more detail policy agenda than Donald Trump. But they have found the same place that they're both putting most of their achievement chips and most of their argument on stump on trying to personally disqualify the other. That's harder to do in a town hall. Voters get up in a town hall and really ask questions about how you're going to make my life better. So, I expect lots of sharp interchanges on policy, but it's somewhat more kind of out of tune to be really making the personal attacks they've relied on so far.

BLITZER: And to really go after each other in front of live viewers as people are standing up and asking these questions. That's going to be a bit more difficult.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it is more difficult to be sort of antagonistic or to go on the attack when you've got that audience of concerned voters standing around you. At the same time, though, I do expect Trump for instance to try and attack Clinton if he can only because he missed an opportunity in the last debate to go after her on e-mails and some other things his camp clearly thinks he missed.

BLITZER: Because, Brianna, getting in front of people who are standing up and asking questions and getting into a cat fight, if you will, by these two presidential candidates, that could be awkward.

KEILAR: Yes, it could be very awkward.

We've seen Donald Trump have these type of back and forth with kind of civilians, right? The Khan family, for instance, Alicia Machado. But it hasn't happened in person. So, I think that, you know, it would be surprising if that happened in person. BLITZER: How significant is this 55 percent, Ron Brownstein, the job

approval that the president has right now.

BROWNSTEIN: I think it's the single most important measure for kind of overall feeling of the state of the country. I mean, it used to be right track/wrong track, but not pretty much everybody says we're on a wrong track. You know, it's very high 70 percent but that includes a lot of Democrats. The presidential approval rating has a huge shadow over the elections to succeed.

BLITZER: Good news potential, not just for the president David Axelrod, but for Hillary Clinton as well. You agree that that 70 percent people who say the country is on the wrong track right now, not as significant as that 55 percent who like what the president is doing?

AXELROD: The right track/wrong track number has been bad for some time. The president got reelected with a bad right track/wrong track number. But she is so closely tied to him and the Republicans put a lot of eggs in that basket and now, they have a popular president and they are making him a symbol of her candidacy, it may not work.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll see what happens Sunday night. How this debate unfolds. Our Anderson Cooper is co-moderating.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.