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State of the Union

Interview with Newt Gingrich, Bill Richardson; Interview with Mark Warner, Tom Davis; The Courtship of the American Woman

Aired October 21, 2012 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The last debate coming amidst tight polls, testy candidates and trouble across the globe.

Today as Obama and Romney prepare to debate the world, who has the strongest hand? We'll ask former Ambassador to the United Nations, Democrat Bill Richardson and former Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.


OBAMA: Hello Virginia.

ROMNEY: What a great Virginia welcome.


CROWLEY: Then battleground Virginia with the state's Democratic Senator Mark Warner and former Congressman Republican Tom Davis. And courtship of the American woman, gender politics with the top Republican woman in Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, CNN's Dana Bash and Dan Balz from the Washington Post.

I'm Candy Crowley and this State of the Union.

In an election about the economy, the debate of international affairs has been minimal, generally pitting President Obama's signature achievements...


OBAMA: Al Qaeda's on the path to defeat and Osama Bin Laden is dead.


CROWLEY: Up against criticism that the president's approach has been too hard on friends and too conciliatory to enemies.


ROMNEY: The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour.


CROWLEY: Tomorrow night's debate, the last before the election will focus solely on foreign policy. It is certain to include the specific, including the who knew what, when question surrounding the murders of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi to the big picture debate over America's role in the global village. Joining me now for a preview debate, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson and former Speaker of House Newt Gingrich.

I want to get to that but I first want to get just your remembrances of Senator George McGovern who died today at the age of 90 because in -- in some ways he played a pivotal role as a Democratic Candidate in 1972 in the midst of a war.

RICHARDSON: He was a great statesman. I knew him quite well and I'm very saddened. I think he'll be remembers, obviously for his stance on the war in Vietnam, for his bomber missions. But also, for his contributions on agriculture, on hunger.

And then the Democratic Party, he transformed the Party, the primary system, getting minorities involved. He was a gigantic figure and a classy god, good guy.

CROWLEY: You probably had absolutely nothing in common with Senator McGovern politically.

GINGRICH: No, George -- George actually was a very complicated person. He had served as a bomber pilot in World War II, he was not a pacifist and his argument over Vietnam was about that particular war.

He was a citizen; I remember being with him at the U.S. Embassy in Rome for dinner one night and talking about he and Goldwater, I mean, he said, one of the nice things about losing badly enough is you don't have lots of regrets about what one thing might you have changed.

And he had a very good sense of humor and he was a very down to earth guy who, later on in life, ran a small business, a bed and breakfast and wrote a great article on all the problems we had heaped up on small business through the regulations he had sponsored.

Just a great guy.

CROWLEY: Yeah, yeah. I -- I -- I agree with you, he was far more complicated than just dove (ph) would -- would lead you -- would lead you to believe as is, you know, the case with most everybody that we talk about, far more complicated.

I want to move on now to foreign policy and this big and final debate and ask you one of the questions that I hear out there all the time is, is there a fundamental difference between these two men that you have discerned over the totality of foreign policy

RICHARDSON: There is a big difference and -- and I'm concerned about Governor Romney becoming Commander in Chief. I -- I told Newt that when we served in the House together, he knew foreign policy and he rose above partisanship on issues like the Peso Crisis, NAFTA, we worked together.

Governor Romney just seems to be bluster, blunder, cowboy alone foreign policy and -- and I'm troubled that at this time when we had the Benghazi crisis, he was trying to make political gain and I'm also troubled that in the House of Representatives with the House Oversight Committee releasing information about some Libyan nationals that we are exposing to danger.

I think that the president has a very strong record in foreign policy. He -- he went after Bin Laden; he -- he decimated Al Qaeda; he's restored our alliances. I think he's going to be hardly an advantage when it comes to foreign policy.

CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, you are unusually quiet.

GINGRICH: Well, no, I -- look I respect Ambassador Richardson, and old friend and the guy have been a governor, congressman and ambassador, Secretary of Energy.

But, we obviously have a very different view of this. First of all, Governor Romney lived overseas for several years as a missionary, worked in international business for many, many years; as governor of Massachusetts dealt with international relations as a governor.

But more equally importantly he dealt with the entire world in helping rebuild the winter Olympics and literally had virtually every country in the world that he was dealing with in that setting. So he -- he is -- he is a man who understands the larger world.

The biggest different, I think, is the question between self- deception and realism. I think if -- if -- if you look at the whole Obama approach in the Middle East, it's all falling apart.

You look at Libya where you have a country where even today, we're in arguments over Benghazi which ought to lead every person to worry about our intelligence capabilities. If we can't figure out what went on in a relatively open city, in a country we had helped liberate, why do we think we know what's going on with the Iranian nuclear program?

And I think you can go country by country and see sort of the fraying at the edges of the Obama policy and the -- the fact that apologizing to Islam and worrying about this -- and mentioning for example, the stupid film six times in the United Nation speech is not a strategy that's getting us anywhere in the region.

CROWLEY: And let me -- let me -- I just wanted to inform the audience here, this is our latest Pew Research Center poll. The question was who can do a better job making wise foreign policy decisions and what it shows is that from September to October, the president has dropped six points in this and the former governor has picked up five points. And what's happened in that time has been Benghazi.

So the answer to the question, we don't know what happened in a relatively open city that, by the way, the United States at least helped keep free, how can we possibly stake what the U.S. does next on what we think is happening in Iran with the building of a nuclear weapon?

RICHARDSON: Well first, Candy, when I was U.N. ambassador, I'd get a daily intelligence assessment. But those intelligence assessments change with more information coming in. But when the president found out about what happened in Benghazi, the next day, he called it an act of terror twice in Washington and in Nevada.

He ordered an investigation. He increased Embassy security and he said he was going to bring those individuals responsible to justice.

Now, our Libya policy worked. NATO came in, we assisted NATO, we came in on humanitarian grounds. I think we've been on the right side of the Arab Spring issue...

CROWLEY: Let me just ask you, Mr. Ambassador, do you -- do you know now what happened in Benghazi?

RICHARDSON: Well, I've seen the press reports. I'm not privy to what's happened. But -- but I do think it's a very strong Al Qaeda effort.

CROWLEY: More than a month later, I'm -- it seems there's still more...

GINGRICH: And more than a month later we're now told the Ambassador Rice was in fact acting on what the intelligence community supposedly told her on Sunday after this attack, what they told her on Sunday, if that's correct was factually false.

We still don't know in detail, we don't know who were actually the people in charge were. Remember, you have over 100 people in a five hour running battle. I mean this is not a temporary mob. This was not a short term thing. That we now -- they now say at least four Al Qaeda members are involved.

But let me give you a bigger picture for a second. The way we handled Libya as it collapsed, over 10,000 weapons moved into Mali. The reason that's relevant is the parallel today is Syria. Syria has one of the largest, if not the largest chemical weapon stockpiles in the world.

If that dictatorship falls in such a way that those chemical weapons get into terrorist hands, we have an enormous threat everywhere in the civilized world in my judgment.

CROWLEY: Let me -- I want to play something that President Obama said at Tuesday night's debate and this was the -- the -- the question actually to him which never got answered was, whose -- whose decision was it not to beef up security after so many folks, we are now learning through these cables to the State Department had asked for it?

And -- and he -- this is part of what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... and the suggestion that anybody in my team for the Secretary State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we're lost four of our own, governor, is offensive.


CROWLEY: So my question, let me -- let me do it first to you, Mr. Speaker. My question is how does Mitt Romney avoid that charge? That they're playing -- because you hear it on the campaign trail, this is politics, this is politics.

GINGRICH: First of all, it is offensive for the president of the United States to pretend that being asked a serious question about a serious topic in a presidential campaign is -- is some personality game.

The fact is, the president of the United States, he says he was responsible, he -- he was asked. He said Hillary's not responsible, she works for me. I'm responsible. Fine. If he's responsible, why do you have so many testify to Congress that, this is his quote, he felt like the Taliban was inside the State Department. He felt like his major enemies were inside the State Department.

This is the man in charge of security for the Middle East who talked painful about being turned down and being told, don't you even ask for security, you're not going to get it.

RICHARDSON: Look, Candy, what -- what troubles me is that Governor Romney, before we knew that four Americans had died was already taking political potshots over this incident. I think that is fundamentally wrong.

Foreign policy partisanship has...

CROWLEY: He was -- he was actually in fact responding to something that came out of the Embassy in Cairo and -- and...

RICHARDSON: Well, at the same time, Candy, and then in subsequent debates, the vice presidential debate...

GINGRICH: No, no, no...

RICHARDSON: ... there -- no, no, no...

GINGRICH: ... I -- I've been polite over it now, but this is -- this is no way...


GINGRICH: Romney was not responding to Benghazi, Romney was responding to the Embassy in Cairo apologizing over the movie at a time when mobs were attacking us. RICHARDSON: But -- but nonetheless -- nonetheless, at a time when our people were attacked, he was taking -- he made several political statements that morning. And I think that's what's wrong.

What -- what I want to stress again, is that there's a difference between Embassy security, diplomatic security takes care of the Ambassador. Marines take care of the Embassy and there was a statement that Paul Ryan made confused the two. So it -- it -- it was trying to make political hay before all the facts were in.

GINGRICH: Let me -- let me use an analogy. I went Friday night to see "Argo" which is a very interesting film about the rescue of six Americans from the Canadian Embassy in Iran. And I was reminded, the Iranian hostage crisis runs 444 days. Now, should Ronald Reagan not have talked about it for 444 days? The fact is, we're in the middle of a mess in the Middle East, the mess keeps evolving. There continue to be incidents and you just gave a good example.

I don't care whether you talk about the diplomatic security service or you're talking about the Marine Corps, the Obama administration failed to protect the consulate, failed to respond to requests, rejected demands that the get help. The Ambassador as personally worried about not only his own life, but about violence, and the Obama Administration did nothing.

If that offends the president, then that's his problem and he ought to get over it.

CROWLEY: Governor Richardson, I'm sorry, I have to cut it off there, but I feel like we've had a pre-debate debate, so thank you very much for coming, Bill Richardson, former Speaker, Newt Gingrich.

Thanks for being here.

Next up, this red state turned blue in 2008 and helped put President Obama in the White House. Four years later, it's up for grabs again, battleground Virginia is next.


CROWLEY: Among the battlegrounds Virginia is new turf, reliably Republican through ten straight presidential elections until President Obama won there in 2008. This year, it is seen as a tilting point.


OBAMA: Virginia, you have heard of the New Deal, you have heard of the Square Deal, the Fair Deal, Mitt Romney is trying to give you a sketchy deal.

ROMNEY: It's up to you guys in Virginia. You can make the difference.


CROWLEY: Four years ago, the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. and the state's African-American voters were key to the president's historic win, but Virginia's conservative roots are deeply embedded in the rural regions: Norfolk naval base, large numbers of military retirees and civilian defense workers also keep the state competitive for Republicans.

Mitt Romney is clearly counting on the latter group to help him carry the state. He has been hammering the president over possible defense cuts he says will increase Virginia's current 5.9 percent unemployment rate.

16 days from the election, the race is tight, an ARG poll of likely Virginia voters found Romney with a one-point edge over the president.

Showdown Virginia is next with the state's Democratic senator and former governor Mark Warner and former Republican congressman Ton Davis.



OBAMA: In less than three weeks, voters in states like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida will decide this incredibly important election, which begs the question, what are we doing here?


CROWLEY: President Obama joking Thursday night at the Alfred E. Smith memorial dinner in New York. No one questions New York as squarely in the Obama column. Virginia, on the other hand, a jump ball.

Joining me, Virginia Democratic senator and former governor Mark Warner and former Republican congressman Tom Davis. Thank you, both.

You've got a barn burner in Virginia this time. Give me your best analyst look at the state of play right now.

DAVIS: Well, I'll start. I think Romney is on an upward trajectory. We think he has passed it. The Rasmussen polls shows him up three. It's close, but Obama's turnout model is going to be down from 2008. The kids are not coming out for him like they did before. We think minority turnout will be down slightly just because you can never beat the first time. And in Northern Virginia, we're going to do much better than we did last time.

WARNER: It's clearly a battle state. That means it's going to be close. I think we saw polls yesterday showing the president up two. I think he is going to be successful. I think he has done a great job for veterans. And I think where we can actually pick up versus where we were four years ago against John McCain, and the split on Women's vote in Virginia is bigger than the national trend. We were talking off camera, last year the legislature controlled completely by the Republicans, and it made Virginia the brunt of late night jokes with the so-called invasive ultra sounds. Most recently a week ago our state health director resigned rather than having these restricted abortion requirements put in place.

Frankly, the Virginia party -- right now is not the Tom Davis Virginia Republican Party, and I think the women in Virginia see that and, unfortunately, the Romney-Ryan campaign has adopted that kind of out of the mainstream approach. CROWLEY: Since the senator brought it up, I want -- we do have two ads that are playing now. -- I'm sure you've seen them several times -- both from the Romney campaign and the Obama campaign, both on abortion. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those ads say Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraceptions seemed a bit extreme, so I looked into it. Turns out Romney doesn't oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother's life.

ANNOUNCER: Banning all abortions?

ROMNEY: I would be delighted sign that bill.

ANNOUNCER: Trying to mislead us. That's wrong. But ban all abortions, only if you vote for him.


CROWLEY: So obviously somebody thinks this is a great way to turn out female voters.

DAVIS: Well, it's worked for Democrats in Virginia traditionally with Doug Wilder's election on that issue, but, look, Romney wasn't anywhere near Richmond when what Mark talked about was going on. Also I just add Obama doesn't have the benefit of having Mark Warner on the ticket with him this time, that's going to hurt him a little bit as well.

CROWLEY: He going to kill you with kindness here.

DAVIS: When Democrats start talking about abortion, they're behind. That's been my experience. They hit me on the same issue. They hit John Warner on the same issues. They hit anybody with the label. It doesn't fit Mitt Romney.

CROWLEY: And frankly, it's still a very conservative state in so many places. And these abortion issues split both ways.

WARNER: Absolutely splits both ways. But Virginia is a mainstream state, and Virginians don't like either political party when they get too far out of the mainstream.

You know, the Mitt Romney that campaigned for Republican nomination was way out of the mainstream. He is trying to -- it is getting close to Halloween, he is trying to change clothes and get back into a moderate view. I think at the end of the day people are not going to respond to that. And I think on top of that where I would -- you know, Tom is an expert on politics, Virginia and elsewhere, but I think at the end of the day the ground game that the president has built will make sure that turnout comes out.

CROWLEY: But what do you say? The congressman says that the ground game is not as muscular as it seems.

DAVIS: They don't have a message behind the ground game this time either.

CROWLEY: Four years ago, and that the momentum at this point seems to be Governor Romney. Would you agree with that assessment?

WARNER: I would say that this state has gotten a lot closer, just as the whole national election has got closer. Again, that's why it's a battleground...

CROWLEY: But going into the last two weeks, you want to be the guy with momentum...

WARNER: Over the last two weeks, we have got twice as much operations in place in Virginia than the Romney campaign. I think the issues in terms of women -- I also think the issue -- the fact is I'm more on the economics side. The Romney numbers just don't add up. We heard the other day, $8 trillion in tax cuts or additional defense spending. You know, Mitt Romney could eliminate capital gains distinction, the mortgage deduction, charitable deduction, and health care exclusion for everybody, and it still doesn't add up to $8 trillion.

DAVIS: Obama's numbers don't add up either. Mark knows that as well.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about something that might affect the outcome in Virginia. And there are two things you can pick up on both of them. One of them is that (inaudible) Virgil Goode is on the ballot and as is Gary Johnson, so might that affect the outcome -- and a green candidate is on there as well. But Virgil Goode is likely to take votes away from Governor Romney. And in a close race, does that worry you?

DAVIS: Well, you know, he probably cuts into us more than the other side, but he just is just driving around the state in his truck. We don't see a lot of penetration. There are no Goode signs to speak of. So I think it's really on the margins at this point, and I think our lead is going to be enough to overcome that if we get our vote out.

CROWLEY: And senator, let me ask you, there's also question number one on the ballot which is about imminent domain. And it would limit instances where private property can be ceased by the government for public use. Might that drive out the conservative vote?

WARNER: You know, that issue hasn't gotten a lot of attention. There's been bipartisan supported. I don't hear it talked about a lot. I do think at the end of the day, Virgil who has been a Democrat, a Republican, an independent and now he's running as a constitutionalist, particularly in southside and southwest Virginia, I think he will draw votes away from Governor Romney. CROWLEY: Do you think imminent domain splits?

DAVIS: I don't think it's been high profile -- there's been no money behind it, Candy.

But let me just make this -- if you are an incumbent and the challenger is getting traction as the election is -- you get nervous. I've run a lot of campaigns. I would much rather be Romney than I would Obama in Virginia at this point.

WARNER: I would still take the fact Virginia with 5.9 percent unemployment, Virginia with...

CROWLEY: With a Republican governor.

WARNER: Well, with a -- at the end of the day, even the buck stops with the president as people have always said Governor Romney makes this thing the economy is not coming back. We've seen Virginia's economy do pretty darn well.

CROWLEY: Virginia's economy by and large is is pretty good. You would agree with that, congressman, that cuts for President Obama.

DAVIS: It's certainly good in Northern Virginia, which is carrying, but you go to down to Martinsville and some of these other places, it's still hurting in these areas. I think the president is going to pay a price.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you about your senate race there because it's such a great one. This pits -- and I want to show our viewers the latest polling there from ABC News, the Marist poll.

Tim Kaine -- both of these men former governors -- Tim Kaine 47 percent. He is the Democrat. George Allen, 46 percent. He is the Republican.

Does this race depend on the top of the ticket?

WARNER: You know, I think the top of the ticket is going to affect this race. I do think at the end of the day, again, Tim Kaine, who is a great friend of mine. I have known him for 30 plus years. He is my lieutenant governor, I think he is going to be successful. I think he lays out a much more positive ability to come to Washington and actually work with people like the Tom Davises and Mark Warners who want to get stuff done who after the election realize you have got to check your Democrat and Republican hats.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I want you to answer that question as well, but I also want to repeat something that you said that I found fascinating to the Christian Science Monitor on Friday when you said "I am shocked as I am going out and ringing on doorbells on behalf of Republican candidates, people don't know the senate candidates despite their pedigree." These are two pretty high profile guys.

What does that mean when it comes to the end result? DAVIS: Well, I think the presidential race has sucked out of oxygen out of this in terms of the ads and the voter retention, and Northern Virginia in particular where I've been out has a huge turnover, as Mark knows every time. New people coming in all the time.

The presidential race is a very important factor of the senate race, because it's going to dictate your turnout model. If we have a 2008 turnout model, its over. Democrats win. But what we can see is they are dispirited. Republicans turnout was down 3 percent in 2008 from 2004. Republicans are enthused this time. I haven't seen such enthusiasm in this state since Ronald Reagan.

CROWLEY: I have to run, so I need a one-word answer to button this up. As the presidency goes in Virginia, so goes the senate race? Yes or no?

WARNER: I think Kaine wins in either instance.

DAVIS: No, I think the presidential race is -- I think George Allen wins.

CROWLEY: OK. Congressman Davis thank you for being here. Senator, thank you as well. Appreciate it.

Coming up, President Obama and Mitt Romney ratcheting up the campaign to win over female voters.


ROMNEY: This president has failed America's women.

OBAMA: In the 21st Century a woman deserves equal pay for equal work.



CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories.

Former Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern died this morning at the age of 90. McGovern served in the Senate from 1963 to 1981. He was the Democratic Presidential Nominee in 1972 whose top issue was ending the Vietnam War. He lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon.

McGovern sought the White House again in 1984 but dropped out after a poor showing.

In his later years, McGovern served as a U.N. Global Ambassador on World Hunger.

McGovern died peacefully in a South Dakota Hospice.

Mitt Romney's formal fundraising season is over. The Republican Presidential Nominee held his final fundraiser last night. Romney has raise $361 million this election cycle. He will continue to accept donations through Election Day via his campaign website, by mail and text message.

President Obama will pull what his campaign calls and all-nighter this week in battleground states. The president will rally supporters and undecided voters in Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Florida and Virginia and Ohio during a 48 hour whirlwind tour.

He'll also stop in Chicago to vote, presumably for himself, as Obama will be the first sitting president in modern history to cast an early ballot.

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is speaking publicly for the first time since taking a medical leave in May. In a robocall to his constituents, the nine term Chicago Democrat says he's been undergoing medical treatment to address several serious health issues. He also said he's anxious to return to work, but doctors tell him his road to recovery will be long. Jackson has been undergoing treatment at the Mayo Clinic for depression. He's also under federal investigation for possible financial improprieties.

And those are your headlines. Next up, Obama, Romney and gender politics; Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards joins CNN's Dana Bash and Dan Balz of the Washington Post.


CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, CNN's Senior Congressional Correspondent, Dana Bash; Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards; Republican Congresswoman Kathleen McMorris -- Cathy McMorris-Rodgers; and Washington Post Political Correspondent Dan Balz.

Thank you all.

I have a couple of polls here that I found really interesting and I -- just to sort of set the table for this conversation, this was a choice for president among likely female voters in the swing states, President Obama, 49; Mitt Romney 48.

Now that is a huge closing. What's happened here do you think?

RODGERS Boy it -- it is huge in the last month. We've seen an 18 point shift and that the -- the gender gap is really neutralized, it's -- it's even which I think really speaks positive to Governor Romney and his message, especially to women and on the economy, on jobs, on getting women back to work, that this president's policies have failed.

We have five and a half million women that are unemployed, a record number that are living in poverty and on food stamps, it's the highest number in the last 20 years and Governor Romney's coming up with a -- a plan with a way to get these women employed and take are of their children and -- and their families. CROWLEY: But you know Congresswoman Edwards, that's been true -- I mean the -- the what-- what women are concerned about has been true through the whole thing. Something has happened here and can you pinpoint what you think might -- is this just a normal closing of the polls because they have one point advantage for the president this stage of the game among women voters seems small.

EDWARDS: Well I think what we're seeing here is that the electorate and also women are really crystallizing what this election is about and I think that when they look really hard, what they will see in President Obama is both what he's done with and for women including, you know, supporting equal pay for equal work, making sure that mammogram, cervical exams and reproductive health care is taken -- taken care of.

And I think what you are seeing in the, you know, in the polls is that women care about a lot of things and that is -- that's really true. At the end of the day, they're going to look at President Obama's record as a demonstration of what he's going to do in the future. And they will look at Mitt Romney's words and understand that he really has not stood on the side of women.

CROWLEY: You -- you too jump in on this because it -- it does seem to me that something fundamental happened in here with female voters. BASH: Well the one thing it -- it -- about that poll is that it seemed to be an outlier and that -- that was the one poll that really showed its neck and neck virtually with female voters. Others showed different results.

But I think that does speak to the effect...

CROWLEY: (inaudible) closing, right?

BASH: That -- they also are closing, but it does speak to the fact that women historically tend to be late deciders in elections. Not only do they vote more than men, they're registered more, they vote more than men but they tend to decide late, and that's what pollsters will tell you and campaigns will tell you.

BASH: And that is why you see in every -- every chance that these candidates get at over -- and sometimes, frankly, over the top almost in caricature kind of way appeal to women.

CROWLEY: Yeah and -- and on that score, I just wanted -- that we found some stats about the number of abortion ads that are running and in mid-September, 14 races were running ads about abortion. Right now, 50 races include some sort of ad about abortion.

So -- so clearly, there's a huge fight on for the female vote. What's happened?

BALZ: Well, there's no question that there's a fight on for it. I -- I -- I tend to agree with Dana that the -- that the poll that shows them essentially tied I think is probably an outlier.

I mean everything we know about the structure of how people vote in this country, President Obama should and probably will win the vote of women. The question is by how much and I think that the first...

CROWLEY: And the margin matters.

BALZ: ... the first debate, obviously helped Governor Romney on that score. I think it -- he came across in a way that was more appealing than some of the the ads that have been attacking him but I know I sat in on a focus group that was done in Fairfax County last month, and you could tell that the advertising that's been going on by the Obama campaign on women's issues had had an effect on women voters, that they had -- they had taken that in. They said the economy was the biggest issue, but those ads on social issues were having an effect.

It's move back toward a closer race, but I think that we'll likely see it move a little but further in the president's direction.

CROWLEY: (inaudible) female.

BALZ: In -- in terms of this -- the female voters.

CROWLEY: Let -- and on that score, I want to just show one more poll because I found this fascinating. This is USA Today Gallop Poll, female registered voters in the swing states, what's the most important issue for women? Most important issue came in as abortion, 39 percent.

RODGERS: Right, when you ask about women's issues, but when you ask issues in general, it -- it -- it -- women, yes, abortion, women care about abortion both prolife and prochoice...

CROWLEY: Right, right, both sides of the (inaudible) we should say, yes.

RODGERS: ... women care about that issue but I think women are not single issue voters and you see where women are making their decision based upon the economy, on jobs, on the debt, very concerned about the -- the trillion dollar deficits run up by this administration, what that means for our future; health care, very concerned about government's role when it comes to health care; but we're seeing these polls close. And you know? I think they're seeing Governor Romney unfiltered in the debates, they're seeing him and his record when it comes to women.

The fact that he hired -- half of his cabinet were women. He had a Lieutenant Governor, Chief of Staff. He's made a commitment to promoting women in this administration. You know what? And I predict the Republicans are going to win the women's vote in 2012.

EDWARDS: Well, that's certainly not true.



EDWARDS: The -- the fact -- the fact of the matter is that President Obama has actually demonstrated by his record. He signed -- the first bill that he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and to this day, Mitt Romney still cannot say I support equal pay for equal work. He was asked really clearly during that last debate and he punted yet again.

What they also see is that women care about their reproductive health care, not just abortion, but access to contraception, access to mammograms and cervical exams and what they see in President Obama is a president who's actually supported that access and what they see in Mitt Romney is somebody who really has said, you know what? Let your employers, let your bosses decide whether or not you have access to -- to something as fundamental as contraception.

Ninety-eight percent of women use contraception at some point in their lives, women care about that.

CROWLEY: Hold on to that because we'll come right back.

The candidates are heading into the last two weeks of the campaign. More with our panel when we return.


CROWLEY: We are following reports of riots now in Beirut which has been the sign -- the scene of some violent protesters to this. This -- these disturbances apparently following the funeral of -- of some folks that were killed there earlier.

I want to bring in our Nick Paton Walsh, I'm -- I'm sorry we don't have Nick.

What -- what we're told happened here is that after the funerals of the senior police officer and an opponent of the Syrian regime, but remember this is in Lebanon. A group of young people stormed the government headquarters in Beirut. This comes amidst calls for the Prime Minister in Lebanon to resign.

So you're seeing here some of what happened and I'm told now we do have Nick Paton Walsh with me.

Nick, fill in the gaps here for me and tell me what's happening right now?

WALSH: OK, the scene right now is the remnants of an angry mob of say about two to three hundred protests. You obviously (inaudible) is lengthy -- I say lengthy, about a half an hour's worth of (inaudible).

Let me tell you how we got to this particular point. Earlier on, there was a dignified and somber funeral procession on (inaudible) Square. Four top (inaudible) official (inaudible) assassinated on Friday.

A speech given by a former Prime Minister to that crowd called upon the Prime Minister to resign and said there should be no dialogue. Now shortly after that, an angry group of individuals from that crowd, most long began storming down a central alleyway here in Central Beirut towards the Prime Minister's office. They headed towards police lines, tore away from in front of them, the metal railings put in place to prevent exactly what they were trying to do, some of them began throwing sticks at police.

I have to confess, I couldn't see police lines from my vantage point here about six stories up but they appear to be throwing things at the police. The police obviously held their lines for some time and the crowd grew in number, but eventually tear gas was released into the crowd. They began to scatter.

CROWLEY: ... for us in Beirut following these demonstrations which have turned a bit violent, but as far as we know, no one has been killed during this latest incident here on the streets on Beirut. Of course, CNN will have more of this as the day unfolds with Nick Paton Walsh who's covering it for us there.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Republican Congresswoman Kathy McMorris Rodgers and "Washington Post" political correspondent Dan Balz.

I've got to at least move us a little bit toward the debate tomorrow night, foreign policy, this has not been a foreign policy election. Certainly what's happened in Libya has kind of put at least the headlines to the front. Do you think tomorrow makes a difference and in what way?

BASH: Yes, because any time that voters see the candidates on the same stage debating big issues, it matters. And my understanding from the Romney camp is that he is going to try to make this about an issue that women care about and all Americans care about, but particularly women, which is leadership. Can this guy be the commander in chief? Not so much a tit for tat like we saw in the last election.

I was looking up Rutgers has a phenomenal women in politics program. And I was looking up on their website that women historically tend to be the ones who don't want to be in war, who want to get troops out and that has been at the forefront of a lot of elections in recent years but it's not right now.

So, then the question is what are women going to focus on? And I really do think it is the issue of leadership.

RODGERS: I agree. And I think Romney's going to do very well. Last night he's presented the leadership that he would bring domestically on issues here at home and he's going to be able to present that same leadership on foreign policy.

Women care about leadership. They care about problem-solving, getting the job done, working across the aisle. And Governor Romney is someone that has proven that he's a leader, can get the job done, proven that he can work with Democrats. 87 percent of his legislature in Massachusetts were Democrats. And so I think he's going to do very well tomorrow night.

CROWLEY: Congressman Edwards, certainly you can look at the Obama record and point A under foreign policy has to be Osama bin Laden. After that, how do you expect him to -- what do you expect him to bring to the table tomorrow night in terms of foreign policy as a way to show his leadership?

EDWARDS: Well, I think the president definitely is going to talk about his really important and impressive record when it comes to foreign policy. When it comes to understanding and having a command of the state of the world and I think the president really demonstrates that, I think he'll demonstrate that by obviously talking about Osama bin Laden. I think it is important for our perspective.

He'll talk about ending the war in Iraq just as he promised. He'll talk about bringing to a close our engagement in Afghanistan and what lies ahead.

The president has a really clear record on foreign policy, and I think he's going to demonstrate that in the debate tomorrow.

And I think the American people are going to look at that and say he is the kind of commander in chief that we want and he'll be able to focus, I think, on the importance of having a stable American foreign policy so that it allows us to get our economic house in order. And as the president said, we're ending the war in Afghanistan so we can focus on fixing the streets and roads and bridges in the United States.

CROWLEY: Dan, when I hear one side talking about focusing on leadership and who can best handle not just national affairs but global affairs, it says to me that tomorrow will be a more somber debate perhaps than a town hall, that we're going to look at two men who are now trying out for leader of the western world so we're looking for a different dynamic.

BALZ: I think for two reasons. One, they're going to be seated. They're not going to be standing, they're not going to be moving around the stage and circling one another like they did at your debate. And the second is that I think both of them, and particularly Governor Romney, were a little hot in that town hall debate.

CROWLEY: Yeah, you think?

BALZ: And I think that they're both going to want to show a different demeanor in this. This election is still about economic and domestic issues. And though the conversation tomorrow night will be about foreign policy, and national security, I think one thing the voters will be looking at is kind of to take the measure of who does have the kind of strength, calmness, temperament to be the next president and I think that that's where both of them will want to try to project the image that they're superior in that way. CROWLEY: Dana, we've got less than a minute. So I'm going to give you the last word here. Is there somebody that has the most to lose tomorrow night or is this just a matter of the two of them not messing up?

BASH: I think that probably Mitt Romney has the most to lose because he's the charger and he's the one who has got to prove that he can be commander in chief. And this is his last chance to close the deal. He's still -- yes, he's closed the gap in a lot of ways in a lot of swing states, but he has to come back and not have binders of women moments where he's trying to make a point about the fact that he - for example, he was very good with women. He appointed a lieutenant governor who is a female. Massachusetts is not a historically male state - female state, but he -- the way he articulated it did not come over right.

CROWLEY: Dana Bash, Congresswoman Rodgers, Congresswoman Edwards, and really the luckiest man on earth today, Dan Balz. Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.


CROWLEY: Thank you for watching State of the Union. I'm Candy Crowley. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Just search State of the Union. Be sure to watch CNN at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow for the third and final coverage of the debate.

Fareed Zakaria GPS is next for viewers in the U.S.