Key senators on presidential swing state showdown

Written by Chris Wallace / Published October 28, 2012 / Fox News Sunday

Special Guests: Sen. Rob Portman, Sen. Ron Johnson, Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Mark Udall

The following is a rush transcript of the October 28, 2012, edition of "Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.

With nine days until the election, Obama an Romney pull out all the stops.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (voice-over): It's the swing state showdown. As the candidates crisscross the country, we'll discuss where the race stands and what issues matter most with senators from the states that will decide this election. Republicans Rob Portman of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia and Mark Udall of Colorado.

(on camera): Then, how does the electoral map look going in to the last full week of the campaign. We'll ask our Sunday panel to handicap where this race will be won and lost.

And from final debate to around the clock rallies, we're on the stretch, on the trail.

All right now on "Fox News Sunday."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And, hello, again, from Fox News in Washington.

We'll get to our coverage of the presidential race, in a moment. But, first, that huge storm that's bearing down on the East Coast, threatening millions, as well as disrupting campaign schedules.

Here's the latest on the storm from the FOX News extreme weather center in New York.

RICK REICHMUTH, FOX NEWS CHIEF METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Chris.

Yes, the storm likely we've never seen before, anywhere in the U.S. and you can see, already, cloud cover into Canada, and, still down to South Carolina. And the center of the storm, still strengthening. Pressure continues to drop.

The impacts from the storm are going to be significant. Major coastal flooding, from New Jersey to Maine, especially New Jersey and Long Island. We're talking about such a long duration event that we're going to be seeing some isolated rainfall totals of 10 inches. That means major inland flooding.

The biggest problem we're going to have, though, is everybody seeing significant wind, that means major tree damage, for a huge swath of land here. A lot of people without power by the time it is done, likely, in the tens of millions. Chris, when you have those kinds of numbers, it's going to take a long time to get power back on, likely, many people will not have it on next Tuesday during Election Day -- Chris.

WALLACE: The latest on Sandy from our Extreme Weather Center.

Now, the campaign. With President Obama and Governor Romney headed into the final week, we want to track where the race stands with senators from four key swing states.

Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, who played President Obama in Romney's debate prep. Eighteen electoral votes are in play in a state Obama won in '08, by 4.6 points and is now leading by 2.3 points in the latest "Real Clear Politics" average of recent polls.

Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, 10 electoral votes at stake. Obama won by almost 14 points, last time, and, is now leading by 2.3.

Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, Obama won its 13 electoral votes by six points, four years ago. But now he's tied with Romney.

And, Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado, Obama won the nine electoral votes last time by nine points. The race there is now dead even.

Senator Portman, let's start with the state I guess most people think may decide the race, and that is Ohio. The Obama camp says that they have the big edge in early voting in your state and they also note that they have 137 campaign offices around the country, and the Romney camp has only 39.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R-OHIO: Well, Chris, first of all, you mentioned the "Real Clear Politics" average in Ohio being 2.3 percent, in the president's favor. As of this morning, it's 1.9 percent actually, and that's because the polls are closing.

The latest poll was this morning. It was an Ohio poll by the Ohio newspapers showing the race a dead heat. And that's certainly what I feel. I also feel like momentum is on our side.

I have been at six of the rallies over the last week. I've also been at about a dozen centers around the state and energy and enthusiasm is on our side this year. So, it's really interesting to watch. But, look, we were down probably five to 10 points before the debates. After the debates, we are about dead even and it is moving our way.

WALLACE: Senator Warner, your state of Virginia is right in the path of that huge storm. If you lose power, and, you could lose it for days, could it have an effect on early voting? Could it even have an effect on Election Day?

SEN. MARK WARNER, D-VA.: Well, Chris, the governor already declared a state of emergency. I think we don't have as extensive early voting in Virginia as other states. I actually though think in terms of how the president looks, it looks quite good. "Washington Post" came out with a poll today that had the president above the magic 50 percent mark, 51-47, four points up.

He had a great rally the other day in Richmond. I was with him, 15,000 people strong, probably the strongest rally in Virginia to date.

The storm will throw havoc into the race. I was supposed to meet with the president and President Clinton on Monday. That rally has been canceled. But I think Virginians are ready to go to the polls and I think the president will carry Virginia, and just as four years ago when Virginia was the state that put the president over the edge in terms of winning. We hope to claim that title, again this year.

WALLACE: Senator Johnson, let's turn to Wisconsin, which hasn't gone for a Republican since Ronald Reagan back in 1984. How much do you think Romney will be helped by the big organization that Governor Scott Walker had to build to hold off the recall vote last June?

SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-WIS.: Well, it was definitely helpful. We've got a very strong ground game here and, the most recent Rasmussen poll was dead even, 49-49. But among voters who already made up their mind or those that are for sure are going to vote, Governor Romney, you know, garnered 51 percent of those votes versus President Obama, 41 and 48.

So, it was interesting, Chris, as I drive around the victory centers, particularly yesterday, this issue of Benghazi is really bubbling up. People are demanding answers from this administration. I think it's going to have a big impact here in the state of Wisconsin.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to get later to Benghazi a little later in our discussion.

Senator Udall, I was surprised to learn close to 80 percent of voters in your state will have voted before Election Day. The Romney camp says they are winning in absentee requests and early voting. And they say they are also swinging the suburbs around Denver, that went for Obama, four years ago.

SEN. MARK UDALL, D-COLO.: Good morning, Chris. We have a great ground game here in Colorado. You are right, about 80 percent of votes will be cast before Election Day.

But, in the end, Coloradans are going to go for a president who has overseen slow but steady economic growth. We have unemployment levels below 8 percent. The Coloradans look for a leader who says what he means and means what he says.

So, Governor Romney has three problems here in Colorado. We don't know whether it's moderate Mitt or "me, too" Mitt or severely conservative Mitt that will serve as a president. He's been particularly unfriendly to Hispanics and Latinos.

And women in the state are pro-choice. They want to make their own health care decisions and the Republican Party has in effect said to women, we know what's best for you. We don't want you to make your own decisions.

So, those are reasons that President Obama will carry Colorado.

WALLACE: All right. You gave us a lot to chew on, let's start with the economy which everyone agrees is still the number one concern for voters.

Senator Johnson in Wisconsin, let me put up some numbers. The unemployment rate is now nationally 7.8 percent, GDP growth in the third quarter rose from 1.3 percent in the second quarter to 2.0.

It's still a weak recovery, Senator, but aren't the president's policies starting to turn things around?

JOHNSON: No, we have had incredibly tepid, just meager recovery, and the fact that GDP rose 2 percent. I mean, all you can really say about that is it's less bad news.

So, what happened here in Wisconsin, after that first debate -- the very false character that President Obama spent hundreds of millions of dollars portraying Governor Romney was utterly shattered. When Wisconsinites saw, here's a man of integrity and intelligence, somebody that actually had a plan, unlike President Obama who has no proposals to save Social Security or Medicare, or unlike the Democrats in the Senate who hasn't passed a budget over three years, people want real leadership and that's what they are seeing in Governor Romney. And they certainly know Ryan Paul, somebody with the courage to put forward real proposals.

WALLACE: Let me, Senator Warner, talk about the economic recovery. Weak as it is in historical terms, the fact is, even though, as I say, unemployment is down to 7.8 percent, no president has been reelected with unemployment this high since FDR back in 1940. No president has been reelected with growth this low since they started tracking GDP all the way back in 1930. Those are some strong historical head winds.

WARNER: Yes, Chris, but I think we need to also look at where we were and where we have come. I mean, we all remember how bad things were four years ago. We are losing 800,000 jobs a month. We are net positive, 5 million plus jobs, steady job growth, increases. Those GDP numbers, I'd like to see them higher.

But compare America to the rest of the world, we are the one shining spot in the whole world -- look at us compared to Europe, China, India. I think we are going to lead this world recovery. I think the president has got us back on the right track.

I do think we need to deal with some of these budget issues which I know, my colleagues would agree with as well, in terms of not going over the fiscal cliff.

But, I would echo what Senator Udall said. You know, we don't really know what Governor Romney's plan is. I mean, the budget plan he lays out would actually cut 75 percent of all investment in education, and, R&D and infrastructure. That's not a way to grow an economy, going forward.

And, when you look more specifically at Virginia, we're down at about 5.8 percent, 5.9 percent unemployment. We've actually recovered quicker than other states and again, one of the reasons why the president is going to carry Virginia.

WALLACE: Senator Udall, we're going to get to Romney's plan in a moment. But let's talk first of all about Obama's plan because this week, out in the campaign trail, he was brandishing, and we can see it here, that glossy brochure, that he said is his agenda for the next four years. It states goals like create 1 million manufacturing jobs by 2016.

WALLACE: And cut net oil imports in half by 2020.

But, Senator Udall, these are recycled targets from four years ago that he was unable to achieve in his first term.

UDALL: Chris, we have made a lot of progress to reaching those goals and if you look at what the president's accomplished, we are moving forward.

And, my concern and what I hear from Coloradans is a President Romney would go back to the policies of the Bush administration, which were pretty simply, cut taxes, cut regulations, and run up the debt. That isn't going to work.

President Obama is of course making the case, over this last nine days, about what he'd do if he is handed a second term and he would build on the successes of the last four years.

Now, he's trapped the president into a plane heading to the ground at mach speed, he's now righted that plane. We've got some lift. We are heading in the right direction. He deserves a second term.

WALLACE: Senator Portman, let me have you weigh in both, on the Obama agenda, for a second term, and his record, and, also, questions about Romney's record and whether it simply returns to the policies of George W. Bush.

PORTMAN: Chris, it is simple why Governor Romney is doing better in Ohio. People are focused on the economy and jobs, and, Mitt Romney has got a plan that's pro-growth, pro-jobs to turn this thing around and, President Obama doesn't.

So, when people look at the last four years, they are disappointed, they must be. I mean, look, we are living through the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. There are 22 million Americans struggling to find work, 3.5 million more women in poverty, take home pay has gone down 4,300 bucks per family on average.

I mean, you know, this is not the right direction. We are headed in the wrong direction.

And then you have President Obama, you are right. He has a glossy new brochure. I've actually looked at that brochure and as you know I played the role of Obama during the debate preps. And it's more of the same.

I mean, you know, you can argue we need to do more of the same but it hasn't worked and hasn't worked by President Obama's own measurements. He said unemployment would be 50 percent lower than it is if we just passed the stimulus package. He said economic growth today would be 2/3 higher than it actually is.

So, if it hasn't worked, the one thing he does have in his now parole is to raise taxes. And, yes, he wants to raise taxes on about a million small businesses, including a lot here in Ohio. That's going to result, according to a study by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, with a 700,000 job loss, which we can't afford.

So, Governor Romney instead has proposed pro-growth policies, including a tax reform proposal that lowers the rate of taxation, but makes the tax code far more efficient, simplifies it and, that's going to result in 7 million new jobs, over the next 10 years.

That's the choice people have and in Ohio, you know, they are choosing Mitt Romney, and that's where the enthusiasm is.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, I want to move on and one of you talked about the issue of women. And, the two campaigns have been battling for months, over women, and the polls seem to indicate that in fact Romney has succeed to at least some degree, depending on the poll in closing the gender gap when it comes to women preferring Obama over him.

But this week, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock talked about having no exceptions at all in the case of abortion. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD MOURDOCK (R-IN), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Live is a gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation, of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Johnson, Mitt Romney disavowed Richard Mourdock's comments and, Richard Mourdock has tried to walk them back. But it does bring up the bigger question. Why should a woman who believes of freedom of choice when it comes to abortion, why should she vote for Mitt Romney, who said he'd like to see Roe vs. Wade overturned and who favors cutting off all federal funding for Planned Parenthood?

JOHNSON: Well, Chris, first of all, I have heard one person talk about the abortion issue during the entire campaign. What people in Wisconsin, what is moving the needle here is they recognize Mitt Romney is an individual, who when faced with the legislature that's controlled 85 percent by Democrats who is actually able to work with the Democrats, you take a look at his record versus President Obama, who has been totally unable to work with divided government in Washington --

WALLACE: Sir, if I may, on the question of abortion, though --

JOHNSON: It's just --

WALLACE: Go ahead.

JOHNSON: I mean, Chris, it's not even an issue. It's not an issue here in Wisconsin. It doesn't even -- it doesn't even move the radar at all.

What people are concerned about, like I said -- yesterday, it was unbelievable how many people came up to me, demanding answers on Benghazi. I had a father, a Marine, a young Marine, saying, listen I want to know who the commander-in-chief is and what orders he gave and what didn't he give. And that's really the question on the table I think for the last 10 days, is what happened in Benghazi and, abortion doesn't even show up.

WALLACE: All right. I promise we're going to get to Benghazi in a moment.

But, first, I want to give Senator Warner a chance to talk about the women's issue.

On the one hand, obviously, you have a lot of women who are liberal on social issues and not happy with Mitt Romney. On the other hand, this recession, by all standards, number of women who have lost jobs, number of women who have gone into poverty, has hit women even harder than men.

WARNER: Well, Chris, I continue to find it remarkable, whether the Republican Senate candidate in Indiana or the Republican senate candidate in Missouri who somehow are making these outrageous comments about rape. The fact is -- you know, I know in Virginia, one reason why women are supporting the president so strongly is our state legislature made Virginia, frankly a laughingstock with some of its intrusive ultrasound type of procedures that they were proposing, until the governor had to try to walk them back.

People are afraid when you're turning the keys over some of to these guys who seem so disconnected. Quite honestly, this is not only about women's reproductive health, it is about economic issues. It is about, you know, women's ability to have child and family medical leave. It is making sure that women's health care issues are related to women's ability to be active in the workforce.

So, somehow, saying these are not issues of importance, I can only speak to the folks I'm dealing with in Virginia, both the women and man, want to make sure that we keep these elected officials kind of out of these personal decisions.

And unfortunately, what -- my understanding of it is, Romney-Ryan Republican platform is exactly the same issue that Mr. Mourdock and Mr. Akin and other candidates put forward and is a reason why you are seeing in Virginia --    WALLACE: Let me interrupt briefly to say the Romney position is that the he would allow exceptions in the case of rape, incest and the life of the woman. But let's move on -- 

WARNER: But hasn't Mr. Ryan, though, voted consistently --

WALLACE: He has taken the position that Mr. Romney, which is to allow those exceptions. But if I may --

WARNER: But Mr. Ryan's voting record, Mr. Ryan's voting record, Mr. Ryan's voting record --

WALLACE: Listen, Joe Biden didn't agree, Senator Warner, with a lot of Barack Obama's positions, but you listen to the guy in the top job.

WARNER: So, Mr. Ryan has changed his positions now. I guess that's news.

WALLACE: No, actually, it has been for some period of time.

But let's move on to Libya if we can and the continuing controversy over the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four people -- four Americans. We learned Friday that CIA operators on the ground repeatedly requested military backup, and were refused and that they also asked to be able to go from the annex where they worked, over to the consulate to help out there, and were refused.

And, this week, the father of one of the Navy SEALs, Charlie Woods, is the father of slain a former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, spoke out. Let's take a look at what he had to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CHARLES WOODS, FATHER OF TYRONE WOODS: My son violated his orders in order to protect the lives of at least 30 people. He risked his life to be a hero. I wish the leadership in the White House had the same level of moral courage and heroism that my son displayed with his life.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator Udall, you are on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also on the Senate Intelligence Committee. How do you answer critics who say that the Obama administration has bungled this, before, during and after the attack?

UDALL: Chris, we share the grief that Mr. Woods exhibited in that segment.

Let me say this: we're going to get to the bottom of this. The Intelligence Committee is going to hold hearings when we return right after the election and the State Department has its own investigation underway.    But I have to say this: any impartial observer who looks at what happened in Benghazi, would have to say this situation has been politicized. Governor Romney himself realizes that his actions and his reaction was unbecoming for a potential commander-in-chief. He's backed off those comments in that point of view. In the debate this last week, Benghazi and Libya wasn't even raised when the governor had a chance to discuss it.

We ought to be acting in the spirit of Ambassador Stevens. We ought to be pulling together. After 9/11 --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Senator... Certainly, it is a legitimate issue to discuss before an election, when four Americans were killed, and there are questions of intelligence failures before and during the attack, is it not?

UDALL: It is a legitimate issue, but, every story leads to political commentary, and trying to point fingers. After 9/11, we came together, there were a lot of questions that had to be answered, let's operate in that same spirit. And let's remember what Ambassador Stevens was riding to do and let's stand together, because the Middle East is crucial. We need to be tough there, but we need to be smart. We need to be engaged.

This discussion has been politicized. It hasn't been helpful. It hasn't helped us get to the bottom of what happened.

WALLACE: Let me ask you one direct question. There were drones that were flying over Benghazi at the time of the attacks, during the hours, when first the consulate and then the annex. And it was about six or eight hours were under attacks.

Were those drones armed?

UDALL: We're going to find that out. As you have mentioned, I sit on the Intelligence Committee and so does Senator Warner. We're going to get to the bottom of this. We'll find out what happened. And that information, if appropriate, will be revealed --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Do you know whether they were armed, sir?

UDALL: I can't comment on that at this point in time, Chris.

WALLACE: But you certainly agree that if they were armed they could have, without as Leon Panetta said, sending more troops into harm's way could have been used to break up the attack?

UDALL: The drone assets that we have are remarkable and they save the lives of many, many Americans, while we have been getting the bad guys. I look forward to discussing it with you further when I have the information and am able to share it with you.

WALLACE: Senator Portman is another member of the Armed Services Committee. What do you make of Defense Secretary Panetta who says, look, in terms of the criticism that we didn't send troops to break up the attack, that you don't put more U.S. assets in harm's way until you have hard intelligence on the ground as to when they are getting into?

PORTMAN: Chris, I got to tell you, I am member of the Armed Services Committee and I appreciate what my friend Mark Udall just said about not politicizing this.

This is not about politics. This is about a huge national security issue that affects all of us and there was a shocking break down, operationally, not to have the security there in the first place and not to respond to these guys, in their pleas for help for seven hours, during a firefight. It's unbelievable.

And now, we are hearing that the president of the United States, based on his own words, issued a directive immediately after he found out about the firefight, saying, he wanted to be sure those people on the ground were safe and they were getting what they needed. It didn't happen.

This means either that the president's order was not followed, which would be a break down in terms of the White House procedure, or, it means the order wasn't issued. We need to find out about this, it's not about politics. It's is a very serious situation.

After the fact, of course, there has been a lot of confusion about what happened and why it happened. I think the bottom line for us, it shows a lack of leadership. And it shows the policy in disarray and I think it's perfectly appropriate to ask these questions.

As you know, John McCain and I sent a letter more than two weeks ago to Secretary Panetta asking for some of these answers. We haven't heard anything. We sent another letter yesterday, with the additional information. We're now hearing directly from the president about this order that he issued.

Why wasn't it followed? This makes no sense.

WALLACE: Senator Warner, we've got a couple of minutes left and I want you and Senator Johnson to also weigh in.

Senator Warner, you know, a skeptic would say -- you know, yes, this investigation is going to happen after Election Day. But, we won't know the facts when people have to go vote.

WARNER: Well, Chris, again, in a number -- as a member of the Intelligence Committee, what we ought not to be doing is getting into some of these issues, candidly, that -- echoing what Senator Udall said, about drone assets and other things. And frankly, some of the reports even that your network has issued, my understanding at least that the administration had categorically denied. I actually have an enormous amount of faith in the process that we are going to take on in the Intelligence Committee to look at this.

I also have an enormous, enormous amount of faith in former deputy head of the State Department, Tom Pickering, and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, who are going to be leading this investigation and finding out what exactly happened and what those time lines are and, if the mistakes were made, get those exposed so it would never happen again.

We have --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Senator Warner, let me go back --

WARNER: -- four Americans whose lives were killed and I think the most appropriate thing is let's have the information, investigate it in a proper and very appropriate way, the same way the State Department has launched previous investigations whenever members of the personnel are killed abroad.   WALLACE: Senator Warner, one direct question about the drones. I can understand how it would be politically embarrassing for the administration, if it turns out those drones were armed and weapons were not fired, when those men were -- the U.S. Americans -- Americans were under attack for seven hours. I can understand how it would give up valuable intelligence.

Can you tell me directly, were the drones armed or not that were flying over Benghazi and were reporting it in real time?

WARNER: Chris, this member of the Senate Intelligence Committee is not going to make any comments on drones, on the record, off the record or anywhere else.

WALLACE: Senator Johnson, you have a minute for the final word.

JOHNSON: Chris, the American people have the right to know. And that is what they are demanding here in Wisconsin.

Let's face it. What was the president doing, during those seven hours? Did he give that directive? Or didn't he? Did Leon Panetta directly defy him? I mean, what happened?

Who sent out? Who sent Ambassador Rice out five days later when they knew it was a terrorist attack that was preplanned, sent her on Sunday talk shows to say in fact it was a spontaneous reaction to, of course, the video. This administration purposefully misled the American people for weeks. This president misled the American people for weeks.

And, I think the American people have the right to know.

It was either misleading or is incompetent. I think we are finding out it was probably both, misleading and incompetence on the part of this administration. The American people have the right to know.

WALLACE: Senators, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you all for coming in today, giving us your assessment of where this race stands in your key swing states. We'll see how the world turns in these next nine days. Thanks again.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Chris.

UDALL: Thanks, Chris.

WARNER: Thanks, Chris.

WALLACE: Coming up, we'll go into the electoral map in-depth and chart all the ways Romney or Obama could reach 270 electoral votes and be elected president. We crunch the numbers with our Sunday panel, including Karl Rove, when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He's out there with the campaign, right now, which is out of ideas, and out of excuses. And that's why in November, you're going to make sure he's out of office.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't want your vote just because of what I had done. I want your vote because of what I'm going to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: President Obama and Mitt Romney trying to rally their supporters as we approach the final week of this long campaign.

And it's time now for our Sunday group. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst; Democratic strategist Joe Trippi; Karl Rove, founder of the Republican super PAC, American Crossroads; and, Fox News political analyst, Juan Williams.

Well, let's start with Karl Rove's electoral map, based on public polls from last week and let's look at it. Very pretty, I must say.

Karl, you had states solid or leaning Obama in various shades of blue, with 237 electoral votes. States solid or leaning Romney in shades of red and pink with 206 electoral votes. And eight tossup states in yellow with 95 electoral votes. You need 270 to win the presidency.

Now, let's look at another chart. And again, this is last Monday, and, this showed all of the states -- well, it doesn't show all of the states. But, in any case, it shows the toss-up states and it shows some of the leaning Obama and Romney.

Any movement in this last week?

KARL ROVE, AMERICAN CROSSROADS: Well, we'll know tomorrow night with our electoral college map. But right now we're at a point in the campaign where there is little movement. Sort of the momentum was on Romney's side, as -- the closer you get to the end, one of two scenarios happens, it is 1980 and there is rapid movement in one candidate's direction or we're seeing what I think we are seeing now which is movement towards Romney but slowing simply because we're getting down to very thin groups of people left undecided.

WALLACE: Do you have any sense of big movement in any of these states?

ROVE: Well, look, -- at this point polls are less important than looking at the early voting numbers, the actual people who are voting. And let's take for example, Ohio. In Ohio, 109,000 fewer Democrats applied for an absentee ballot as of this point. They have until next Saturday to do it, but most people applied by now, 109,000 fewer Democrats than four years ago, 4,000 more Republicans have -- than four years ago already. So there is a shift there of maybe 120,000, 130,000 absentee ballots towards Republicans in the state won by the Democrats.

WALLACE: Let me ask you one other quick question, which I asked Portman and he didn't answer, the Obama camp has 137 field offices around the state of Ohio, the Romney camp has 39.

ROVE: First of all, a lot of those they simply call the Lucas County Democratic headquarters the Obama headquarters. There are Republican headquarters in virtually every one of the 88 counties in Ohio. So I - you know, what matters is volunteers. I'll tell you this, the 2004 Ohio Bush campaign was unbelievable. They have now busted the metrics for the 2004 campaign.

Yesterday, the Ohio Victory Committee knocked on its 2 millionth door and made its 6 millionth comment. They're going to probably have knocked on close to 3 million...

WALLACE: This is the Romney campaign.

ROVE: The Romney campaign knocked on 3 million doors and made 7 million contacts by election day.

WALLACE: Joe, any comment you want to make about Karl's map, about swing states?

JOE TRIPPI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm struck by -- Karl and I have been talking about the maps since April I think. And it is the same map. I mean, it has gone back and forth. I have been there, called Ohio leaning Obama -- it never leaned Romney, that is the one thing, Romney has never had a lead in any of the polls, during the entire year in Ohio.

But, look, part of the disadvantage Romney has, and part of the reason you have those headquarters numbers so big is because Obama's been fighting for Ohio for four years and they had a -- never turned down their structure for four years ago. And Obama -- Romney, because of the primaries, couldn't put as much focus on that. I think that is a disadvantage on election day.

WALLACE: OK.

Brit, there has clearly been movement in the polls both nationally and in the swing states towards Romney, especially since the first debate in early October. How do you read the race at this moment?

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Well, let's assume that everyone is right and Ohio is the linchpin in the whole thing, which I think is a reasonable supposition at this point. You have a set of national polls, to include Gallup, and Rasmussen, that show Romney with a 4, 5, 6 point lead, depending on which poll you look at. There will be another one out tomorrow, this is a bipartisan poll called the battleground poll, which is a solid poll, reliable poll it will show Romney up 5, nationally.

WALLACE: In the battle ground states.

HUME: No, it's called the battleground poll that's the name of it, but it is a national poll.

Now, if those polls are generally correct it is difficult to imagine that Ohio would be all that different. Ohio has pretty closely tacked the national outcome for -- since about 1960. So, it is certainly true, and worth noting, that Mitt Romney does not now lead in a single Ohio poll. But I can't believe that that national poll wouldn't tell you something about how Iowa will go if the polls are correct.

WALLACE: Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Well, I the momentum has stopped. Obviously Mitt Romney had momentum, especially after that first debate, what we're looking at, if you, you know, just say let's forget all the complexity that we can hear from Joe and Karl, Romney has never led in Ohio. He has never led in Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, never, in none of the polls. OK.

And so what you get here is a situation where, at the moment, he's trying to perpetuate the momentum by coming on with this argument that he is moderate Mitt. It's a little bit of trick-or-treat for the Halloween season here. You know, like what is this real Mitt. But he wants to be...

WALLACE: Sounds like and Obama talking point.

WILLIAMS: No, it's not. I mean, it's the fact is, that is the drive he's making for the few voters that remain, that he is not the guy that Barack Obama castigated as a hard-hearted extremist. And I think that is why Paul Ryan has disappeared from the map for the most part. He's off in resting (ph). You don't see Paul Ryan in a place like Ohio or Wisconsin.

WALLACE: What do you mean, he's in Ohio. He's (inaudible) in Ohio.

ROVE: He made a major address in Cleveland, Ohio last week.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, and - you're going to see him down in Alabama, you are going to see him in South Carolina.

ROVE: One day - one day for fundraising, please...

WILLIAMS: Please, get out of here.

One last thing...

ROVE: He did attend fundraisers and not campaign events. It's a minor fact, it is an inconvenient fact, Juan, but it's a fact.

WALLACE: ...bus trip through Ohio, and in fact Romney was joining him - Ryan in Ohio.

WILLIAMS: Let me say, the key here is the new voters and the turnout. And the thing is, you know, you talk about contacts and all of this, it's the new voters it's the fact that there are 10 million new voters in this country, mostly young people, blacks, Hispanics and that is something very hard to make up for. And I think that is why he is...

WALLACE: This is assuming that they all vote.

WILLIAMS: But that's the thing, so far in the early voting that Karl talking about, he talked about added registration forms, you look at the results from early voting they favor President Obama, because those folks have turned out...

ROVE: No, they don't. This is an important point. If you look at Ohio, for example, 57 percent of the absentee ballot requests come from Democrats who had voted in none, one or two of the last three election, 72 percent of the Republican absentee ballot application come from people who didn't vote -- voted in none, one or two of the last elections. That is to say the Democrats are cannibalizing their election day turnout, the Republicans are the ones who are getting the new voters out.

WILLIAMS: I'm just saying the results are that right now on votes that have already been cast Obama is beating Romney.

ROVE: No, he isn't. Not in Ohio. They - right now time out there are more Republican absentee ballot requests than there are Democrats. 

WALLACE: Time out, two questions, Karl. One, and I want to talk about the disparity between the national polls which certainly are leaning Romney and some of these state polls that are leading Obama. Is it possible that we're ready for another 2000 where you could have Romney win the popular vote in this particular case and Obama win the electoral vote?

ROVE: We could, though I think it's a small chance, because I think Brit is right, when you have - if the margin is as big nationally as it appears in these national polls, then you will have the state polls follow. Now we may have something else at play here, though, which is, we're endowing all of these polls with the precision they don't have.

Take, for example, Ohio, there have been 21 polls since the first debate. In 15 -- 16 of them, Romney led among independence by an average of 13 points and Obama led among independents by two. And two polls, they didn't break it out by Republican, Democrat or Independent. It is hard to believe that if Romney is leading among Republicans by the margins that he is and then leading among Democrats by -- excuse me, among independents by an average of 13, that he's is not going to win this thing.

WALLACE: OK, we have less than a minute left. I want to ask you one last question. You have the map, like it is set in stone but you hear talk about the possibility that there could be new states that come on, you hear talk about Pennsylvania, you hear talk about Michigan, you hear talk about Minnesota. Could Romney have a chance in any of these other states that we had previously thought were pretty solid for Obama?

ROVE: He bought television in Minnesota, but only Minneapolis TV to hit the far western counties in Wisconsin. But I would say that we ought to watch and see what happens this next week in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

WALLACE: That they could come into play?

ROVE: Look, they lean Obama, but these states have been states that have moved from Obama to lean Obama. If there is a national trend, as it appears to be since the first debate, moving in Romney's direction there might be...

WALLACE: Joe, you have ten seconds.

TRIPPI: Yeah, I don't think those states are really in play. I think they can sucker Romney in, to spend some time there but I wouldn't do that if I were them. I would concentrate - if they can either win Ohio or Wisconsin, the states that are up right now, they have a much better shot at getting there than hoping those states come into play.

WALLACE: All right, it's like herding cats here today!

All right, we have to take a break, but when we come back we'll look at what issues will decide the race, the issues that will decide this race, starting with the growing controversy over the terror attack in Benghazi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEC. LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what is going on.

CHARLES WOODS, FATHER OF TYRONE WOODS: To me, that is not only cowardice, but those people who made the decision, and who knew about the decision and lied about it, are murders of my son.   (END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Defense Secretary Panetta and Charlie Woods, father of the former Navy SEAL killed in the Benghazi attack disagreeing over the decision not to provide military backup while the assault was going on. And we're back now with the panel.

Well, let's talk about the issues that may swing voters in the final week of the campaign and let's start with Libya, there were several developments this past week. We learned, as you heard debated there, the fact that CIA operators on the ground in Benghazi, asked for military backup and were turned down several times while the attack was going on. We also found out that CIA people on the ground reported that during the attack, that a jihadist group, Ansar al- Sharia was taking responsibility, claiming responsibility for the attack.

Brit, what do you make of this especially in the context of the campaign?

HUME: Well, what I make of it is, is that it looks terrible. Even though I don't fully endorse the remarks of the grieving father there, I understand his grief. I lost a son myself, not in military combat, I don't think you can accuse officials in Washington who made these decisions of murder.

However, we don't know enough now, about how these decisions were made, and when and by whom. Leon Panetta offered a hint of an explanation that you don't send forces into harm's way -- does after all, if your going to mount some kind of a rescue operation or a military operation, these things require a lot of planning. We don't know whether there were any plans on the shelf that they could have called on to do this.

It doesn't explain, though, the possibility that your questions to your earlier panel raised, which is, where the drones are. Was the drone armed? Could we have gotten some air support, in that way. My sense is the president made this call. Makes sense that he would, that it would be a big enough deal that it would have to go to him. And the decision not to go for whatever reason was made by him, but he will not tell us. And no one else seems willing to tell us.

I think it's therefore likely that the answer is something that worries the White House would hurt politically.

WALLACE: You know, it was interesting, in our conversation with the four senators, Juan, you could see the two Republicans, Johnson and Portman, really trying to make an issue of this. The president needs to tell us what he knew and what he did, particularly during the attack. Do you think they can make that stick as a campaign issue in the last week?

WILLIAMS: Well, they are certainly trying to. There is no intervening event that would really shift the dynamics of the race at this point. And I think they are looking to this incident, which is a tragedy. The question is, at what point do people think that they are politicizing the tragedy, or, you know, trying to exploit it and that would be the downside.

There are very few voters left out there and, the polls don't indicate that this is an issue that is moving anybody. You can have anecdotal statements about people saying, hey, this concerns me and worries me.

But, when you hear from the director of national intelligence, James Clapper and when you hear from Leon Panetta, you have to have more information in real-time, you understand this is a very difficult fog of war situation and to suddenly start saying it was this person's fault or we speculate about that, I'm not sure that it has the power to shift the dynamics of the race.

WALLACE: Do you think this, exactly -- let me pick up on that Karl, does this have power to shift the dynamics? Should Romney go after it? Should he let senators and the vice presidential candidate go after it?

ROVE: Keep focused on the economy, let others go after it. It has already had a corrosive effect in what -- the NBC/Wall Street Journal in late August, the president's approval on foreign policy, 54-40. As of last week, 49-46. In the Monmouth poll, who do you - who do you think would handle foreign affairs better, 9 point advantage for Obama in late September, a 1 point advantage last week.

Look, I cannot - and sure, yeah, you don't want to send people into harm's way without knowing what is on the ground, but you can at least being to move assets to the conflict. You could have a C-130 gunship orbiting off of Benghazi, waiting for clarity, you can put a QRF, a quick rapid force into position. You can have them airborne, you can have them out there.

The president says he ordered support to be given and yet support wasn't given. But there are too many unanswered questions. The administration is stonewalling on this. The American people have a right to know. It ought to be done outside of the bounds of the political campaign. And I applaud Governor Romney for not pressing the issue in the last debate. There was political advantage to him of keeping it focused on the economy, but it also is good for the country that this be - that these questions be raised by congress and answered by the president, but the president should stop stonewalling...

WILLIAMS: But Karl, you just said could have, would have, should have in a political context and you said...

ROVE: No, no. You're...

WILLIAMS: Wait, wait, let me finish. Normally Republicans have an advantage in handling foreign affairs, national security. Even in your polls as they stand now President Obama retains that advantage but this has been used to shrink it just what you said, Karl.

ROVE: Well first of all, it has been shrunk by ordinary Americans looking at the president's handling of the situation and feeling that he is coming up way short. And my comment about looking a at this -- I'm looking at this from the perspective of having been in the White House. I cannot imagine that at 4:05 in the afternoon the situation room got word of an attack on an American facility in Benghazi they wouldn't have taken it to the president and the National Security Adviser, and that president would not have been personally engaged. I take the president's word.

He says that he ordered...

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Karl, because you guys...

WALLACE: Wait, let Karl finish.

WILLIAMS: Your White House - 9/11 when people could have blamed the...

WALLACE: Juan, hold on, let Karl finish.

WILLIAMS: I did.

WALLACE: No, you didn't.

WILLIAMS: I thought I heard you...

ROVE: No.

WALLACE: Let him finish.

ROVE: If the president ordered that assistance be given and no assistance was given until well after 7 hours later, if the CIA at the clandestine annex were told three times do not engage and we had men disregard the orders of their superiors and go to the fighting in order to save American lives, something was fundamentally and dangerously wrong. And the president of the United States, rather than the next day finding out what happened went on a campaign trip to Las Vegas and Golden, Colorado.

WALLACE: Wait, wait, no. Go ahead, Joe.

TRIPPI: If Romney thought this would get him there, I think he would -- and wanted to put it on the front burner, he could. I think the one truth that has been spoken here today is he wants this to be fought on the economy. That doesn't mean the other stuff wasn't true, it just means that is what he wants the spotlight on. He doesn't want to bring more attention...

WALLACE: What did you make of the clear - this is my words, discomfort that the two Democratic senators who are both members of the senate intelligence committee had when I asked them whether or not the drone over Benghazi was armed?

TRIPPI: My guess is they can't say anything about what the drones were doing. I'm not even sure they can talk about -- verify that there were drones were overhead.  These are all...

ROVE: It has been verified.

TRIPPI: Well, I'm not -- but I'm saying is as members of the intelligence committee I think they may have to be more careful than me and Juan and you, speculating about what they are doing.

ROVE: I bet it means they were armed. I bet it means they were armed.

WALLACE: It may.

HUME: One of the problems we're having here is, that it has fallen to this news organization, Fox News and a couple others to do all the heavy lifting on this story. And the mainstream organs of the media that would be after this like a pack of hounds if this were a Republican president, have been remarkably reticent. And there has been some good reporting, but nothing like on the scale and to the degree of specificity that you would expect by now.

Normally, the big news organizations would have this thing out there. And we would know a lot more than we do about - about what the president did, what he knew, when he knew it, and what when he made what order he made and on what basis. We still don't know that, and to some extent, a lot of the media who -- who are a combined potent force have not done their job.

WALLACE: What were you going to say, Joe?

TRIPPI: I was going to say that -- to Brit that what I think's going on is, look, this is how it works. You know, you have one or two news groups pushing a story like this. The opposition asks a lot of questions, too, and there's a congressional investigation, a State Department investigation, and we find out the truth.

The problem is it's all -- everybody wants to hurry up and find the truth out before the election, which is...

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Well, note this. On the morning after the testimony by the first witness who said on Capitol Hill under oath that this was a terrorist attack, the New York Times had zero about that. There has been real reticence here on the part of major...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): But we've seen that before in other instances.   HUME: Oh, I'm not saying in the end it isn't all going to come out, but...

(UNKNOWN): Yeah, it will all come out.

HUME: But this is different.

WALLACE: We are going to have to leave it there. Thank you all. (Inaudible) Sunday, everybody enjoyed themselves.

(LAUGHTER)

And don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group is going to pick up right with this discussion on our website, foxnewssunday.com. We'll post the video before noon Eastern Time. You won't want to miss it. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @foxnewssunday.

Up next, we go on the trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: From a final debate on foreign policy to round-the- clock campaigning, Romney and Obama are locked in a furious race to the finish. Here's what it was like on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We witnessed a president who really has no record to run on.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Half the time I didn't know whether Governor Romney was there to debate Barack Obama or endorse Barack Obama.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Hey, guys. How are you doing?

(UNKNOWN): How are you doing, Governor?

ROMNEY: I'm doing great, thanks.

OBAMA: Last night and throughout this campaign I have laid out a plan for jobs and middle class security.

ROMNEY: His idea of growing the economy is raising taxes. Does anyone think raising taxes creates more jobs?

AUDIENCE: No!

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I have a deal for the president.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": What's this thing with Trump and you? I don't -- it's like me and Letterman. What has he got against you here? I don't get it.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: This -- this all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya and...

(LAUGHTER)

You know...

We are pulling an all-nighter.

(APPLAUSE)

No sleep.

You notice my voice is getting a little hoarse.

We have come too far to turn back now.

ROMNEY: We recognize this is a year with a big choice and the American people want to see big changes. And together we can bring that kind of change, real change, to our country.

(APPLAUSE)

WALLACE: And with a race so close, you can count on the campaign getting even more intense in these last nine days. And we'll be right back with a final note.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Now, this program note: Next Sunday on the final weekend before the election, we'll focus on how each side plans to turn out its supporters. Our guests will include Rich Beeson, political director of the Romney campaign, as well as a top official from the Obama team.

That's it for today. Have a great week and we'll see you from our election headquarters in New York, next "Fox News Sunday."

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