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David Axelrod and Rick Beeson talk last-minute campaign strategy
Written by Chris Wallace / Published November 04, 2012 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: David Axelrod, Rick Beeson
The following is a rush transcript of the November 4, 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: With just 48 hours until Election Day, both campaigns now have one goal: get out the vote.
WALLACE: President Obama and Governor Romney try to drum up support. But it's really about the ground game. Who has been more effective in getting out early voters? Who will have the better organization Tuesday?
We'll talk last-minute strategy with David Axelrod, senior adviser for the Obama campaign. And, Rick Beeson, political director for team Romney.
Then, we'll take one last look at the electoral map. How does each side get the 270 votes they need to win? We'll ask our Sunday panel to survey the battleground states and look for any surprises.
And, from the storm of a lifetime to one of the tightest presidential races ever, we go "On the Trail."
All, right now, on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And, hello, again. This time, from Fox News election headquarters in New York.
And, we are back on Standard Time, so we hope you set your clocks back, one hour.
Well, it's finally here. The last 48 hours, of the seemingly endless campaign. And, for both sides, it's now all about getting supporters out to vote.
We want to talk about ground game tactics with each camp, starting with David Axelrod, senior strategist for the Obama campaign, who is in our Washington studio.
And, David, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Thanks, Chris. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: Before we get to the campaign, I want to ask you about Libya. Here is what the president promised, and here's what he has actually done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Every piece of information that we get, as we got it, we laid it out for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: And, that was the president, returning from a campaign trip, and not answering a question about Benghazi.
David, simple question: did the president make a calculated decision, to run out the clock until the election and not answer questions about Libya?
WALLACE: So, why hasn't he answered questions about his personal involvement in Libya?
AXELROD: The president has from the beginning, Chris -- and we've talked you about this before, of course -- the president has said, we want to get to the bottom of it. We want to share it with the American people. We want to get it right.
And there are a couple of distinguished Americans, Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen, the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are reviewing the whole matter, to get to the bottom of it. Not just to find out, you know, where things went wrong, but, how to fix it. And, so, that our diplomats and the service people we send overseas are as safe as they can be.
Now, they are serving in dangerous places and you cannot eliminating risk but you want to do as much as you can. And that's what the president's goal.
WALLACE: I understand all of the interagency issues and that does take time. But I'm going to ask you a few straightforward questions about the president's personal involvement that don't take time, and he could answer today.
Question one -- the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was attacked twice before the 9/11 fatal assault. In fact, in August, and repeatedly, security officials there asked for more security, said they felt they were vulnerable. And, the situation was so dangerous that the British diplomats and the Red Cross pulled out of Benghazi. Question -- did the president know about that?
AXELROD: Chris, all I can tell you is, the president is fully committed to the safety of his diplomats. He knew the ambassador. He was deeply invested in his work there.
And, obviously, any steps that we needed to take, we would have wanted to take. So, you know, I mean, I'm not in the White House, I'm not privy to all of the discussions, but I can tell you this: this president is 100 percent committed to the people of -- he sends overseas personally to represent this country. He's the one who met the coffins when they came home.
So, any suggestion that he would not take the necessary steps to protect them, make some decision not to take the steps to protect them, is just nonsense.
WALLACE: David, I understand you are not in the White House anymore but on the other hand, you did prepare the president and the vice president for their debates, where Libya came up and one of the debates, the vice president said, we weren't told about requests for more security.
So I guess I'm asking, again, directly, did they know how dangerous the situation in Benghazi was, beforehand, before the attack? And, that the -- security officials in Benghazi were asking for more help?
AXELROD: Obviously, Benghazi was dangerous. There were many other places in the world that are dangerous, where our diplomats serve and where our military serves, where our intelligence people serve.
And -- but the question the vice president was asked, was did he know about a specific request for additional security and the answer to that was no. Those requests go -- we have 230-plus facilities around the world, those requests go to the security professionals in the State Department. And that's what happened in this case.
WALLACE: Second area. On the night of the attack, the president met with top national security advisors, and told them to deploy assets to the area. Question -- why did he decide not to deploy? Why not actually send those assets in, in the seven hours between the first attack and the second attack, in Benghazi, that night, and, the second attack, seven hours later, two Americans were killed?
AXELROD: Chris, it has been reported and as the White House has said, I think, there was another piece of it in the paper this morning. The president convened the top military officials that evening and told them to do whatever was necessary. And they took the steps they thought -- they took every step they could take.
But, listen, this is exactly what this review is about. Because, the real question here is, what went wrong, what could have been done better, if we have to make adjustments in the future, what adjustments should we make? That is a solemn responsibility of the president, and, everyone who serves with him and that's what's going to happen.
WALLACE: Finally, the president canceled campaigning for three days -- three days -- to deal with hurricane Sandy and he was praised for that. Why did he decide to go campaigning in Las Vegas within hours after four Americans were killed in Benghazi, in a terror attack?
AXELROD: Chris, as I said, immediately when word of the attack came, the president was meeting with his top national security folks. He was talking to them well into the night. He was in touch with them, during the day, as -- during the next day as well.
So, there is no question about the fact that he was focused on this.
WALLACE: But, why did he feel he could campaign within hours after a terror attack?
AXELROD: Well, everything -- everything was put in motion, that he could put in motion. Everything -- every conversation that needed to be had was being had between him and his top national security officials.
WALLACE: Let's turn to the election. Here's the latest "Real Clear Politics" map based on an average of recent polls. Let's put it up on the screen.
It shows states solid or leading Obama and we put them all in blue with 201 electoral votes, states solid and leaning Romney in red, with 191 votes, and 11 toss-up states in gray, with 146 votes.
Romney is in Pennsylvania today where the polls have him down more than four points and his campaign says their electoral map is extending and that he has a shot there. What say you?
AXELROD: I say they understand they are in deep trouble. They have tried to expand the map because they know that in the states like Ohio, where they have to win, no Republican has ever been elected without carrying the state of Ohio. They are behind and they're not catching up, at this point. And, they are also going to be in Florida, and Virginia, two states, that you would assume by now they would have secured -- at least they assume by now they would secure.
They understand that the traditional -- or the battleground states on which we have been focusing are not working out for them. We're ahead in all of them and now are looking for somewhere, desperately looking for somewhere to try and dislodge some electoral votes to win this election. And I can tell you that's not going to happen.
WALLACE: You bet your mustache on the president winning Pennsylvania. How secure is your mustache today?
AXELROD: The next time we see each other, Chris, I guarantee you it will be right where it is today and where it's been for 40 years, by the way. So you know how serious a bet that was.
WALLACE: The key now is turnout. And, the Obama campaign talked for years about how strong your ground game is.
I want to look at Ohio. And what the Romney camp says is happening in early voting and absentee balloting. Let's put the numbers up on the screen. This is a little complicated. But I hope you can see the graphic.
They say -- this is the Romney camp -- says that 557,000 Ohio Democrats voted early and got an absentee ballot so far. That's down 155,000 from four years ago.
Four hundred eighty-one thousand Republicans have voted early, or got the absentee ballot. That's up 108,000 from four years ago. That's a swing of 263,000 votes in early balloting, which wipes out Obama's final victory margin of 262,000 in Ohio four years ago.
What they are saying is that if substantially, more Republicans turn out to vote in Ohio, on Election Day, which is what they traditionally do, they are going to win Ohio and you're going to lose.
AXELROD: Well, I'll tell you what, Chris? We'll know in two days what the -- who is bluffing and who is not bluffing. The fact is, that if you look at every poll in Ohio, we have been ahead, even or ahead in virtually every one and the latest came out this morning, in the "Columbus Dispatch."
AXELROD: One thing that's clear is that we have a very, very large lead among voters who have voted early. We are going to go into Election Day with a significant lead.
And, so, you know, we -- they can spin it any way they want. What I'm looking at is cold, hard data -- who is actually showing up, who is casting ballots. And in states like Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Florida, we're doing very, very well.
What they are doing is comparing this to 2008, and you and I have had the discussion. I'm not suggesting we will win by the same margin we won in 2008. And, they are comparing themselves to John McCain, who had virtually no ground operation in many of these states. So, yes, they're going to do a little better than John McCain did and we may not do as well as we did in 2008. But, we are doing plenty well and well enough to win this race.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, briefly, about Florida, where President Obama is down by more than a point in the polls. And yet you are making your final advertising buy the campaign there in Florida. Why not in the state you must win?
AXELROD: Well, first of all, we feel very competitive in the state of Florida. There have been a spate of polls -- in fact in all of these polls, battleground state polls that came out the last 48 hours, I think we are ahead in 90 percent of them, including Florida. Now, there's been a couple of mixed polls in Florida, but we are very pleased with where we are in early voting there and we believe we are -- there, too, we'll go in Election Day with a large lead.
So, we are very competitive in Florida and they know it because they are spending a lot of time there. If they were comfortable in Florida, they wouldn't be spending as much time and money as they are spending down there today.
WALLACE: David, when will we know who the next president is? And do you think it's going to come sooner than expected on Tuesday night? Or do you think it is something that is going to stretch into Wednesday morning?
AXELROD: Well, I think that some of these races are very close. And so it could extend past midnight into the morning. I don't think by this time of the morning, we'll still be wondering who the president is. It is just a matter of tallying the votes.
And, you know, there are fewer exit polls this year, so I think some folks in your business will be a little less bullish about making early forecasts. So, you know, we're -- listen, we have been fighting for a year-and-a-half, we have been working for a year-and-a-half, for this day and our organizations in these states have been building for a year-and-a-half. We are willing to wait a couple more hours to find out what happened.
WALLACE: Is there one state -- is there one county or precinct that you're going to be looking at early in the evening that's going to tell you whether it with it be a good or a bad night?
AXELROD: Well, obviously, you know, we have rolling data from -- about turnout that will tell us things during the day. But when votes start getting counted, we will have sample precincts and some states, everyone knows are very vital in this election, a series of them.
But, Ohio -- we'll be focused on some of those Ohio precincts. I really feel very good about Virginia and I think we're going to win Virginia. We had a great rally in Virginia last night. It's going to be close. That's one of the earlier reporting states, we'll look at those.
And in answer to your earlier question, if those start breaking our way it could be an earlier evening than people anticipated.
WALLACE: And finally, less than a minute left, I'm asking for a personal answer, not a political answer: you have been with Barack Obama from the Illinois State Senate all the way to the oval office. These final two days of his final campaign, how emotional for you?
AXELROD: Very, very, Chris. I mean, this isn't just a friendship -- a partnership, but it's a friendship. And, you know, I started getting interested in politics when I was 5 years old and John F. Kennedy came to my little community in New York City, Stuyvesant Town there, and I saw him and I was hooked from that moment.
And it was an idealism that drew me. Barack Obama has given me my idealism back and I'm grateful to him for it. And now all of us who have been with him for years are gathering on the last trip, and it's a very emotional time for us, a proud time and an emotional for us, but also one with great anticipation, because we think Tuesday is going to be a great day.
WALLACE: David, I want to thank you. Thank you as always, for talking with us, and we also want you to know that our offer still stands in the short system that's left for President Obama to come on Fox News for an interview, at least once, during this campaign.
AXELROD: Well, it's a generous offer and I appreciate you extending it.
WALLACE: All right. But I didn't get a yes, there.
AXELROD: I learned a few things on your show, Chris.
WALLACE: Well, I'm sorry about that.
WALLACE: David, thank you.
AXELROD: OK. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: Yes, sir.
Up next, how the Romney campaign plans to win the turnout battle. We'll talk with Romney political director Richard Beeson, when we come right back.
WALLACE: And we are back, now, in the Fox News election headquarters in New York.
Well, with the polls so close, which side has the better field organization may determine who is president the next four years. The man in charge of turnout for Romney is political director Richard Beeson, who joins us from campaign headquarters in Boston.
And, Rich, welcome to "Fox News Sunday."
RICHARD BEESON, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Chris, thanks for having me on, I'm sitting here trying to imagine what Mr. Axelrod is going to look like next week without his mustache. It's been kind of is fun to think of.
WALLACE: Well, we'll see. Let me ask you about David Axelrod, because he said you guys are desperate in Pennsylvania, and you are vulnerable in Florida. Your reaction?
BEESON: Well, desperate four years ago, this weekend, President Obama was campaigning in Indiana. Today, Governor Romney is campaigning in Pennsylvania. I don't think campaigning in states where we wasn't won since 1988, 1984, and 1972 are exactly acts of desperation. It looks like the map is expanding drastically in our favor and it's nothing we are doing, it's Governor Romney's message.
And when you talk about Florida, for them to go down and spend more money down there is a little bit like Barack Obama's government right now, they want to throw money at the problem and hope it fixing it, but at the end of the day, Governor Romney will carry Florida by a significant margin.
WALLACE: Yes. But let me ask you about the point that he made. Romney, you know, money is one thing and the candidates' time as you know is the most precious commodity in these closing hours. And Romney, tomorrow, on Monday, is going to spend time in Florida and Virginia. Shouldn't you have locked up both of those reliably Republican states weeks ago?
BEESON: Well, let's not forget, reliably Republican, Barack Obama won both of those states in 2008. And, so, as you look at the absentee ballot numbers coming out of Florida, the Democrats in '08 had a 370,000 vote margin. And that has been cut down to about 70,000 votes, right now. And we will win on Election Day by a significant margin.
So, Florida, you want to make sure it is taken care of. I don't know why they are spending money down there. Governor Romney wants to take another swing down there. As far as Virginia, it's going to be a close state. It's going to come down to the very end.
But when you look at the early results out of the absentee ballots, in Democrat counties versus Republican counties, this is a case all over the country, they are underperforming and we are over- performing. And Mr. Axelrod can spin it any way he wants about John McCain or them not doing as well. But the matter of the fact is Governor Romney's message is carrying the day.
WALLACE: All right. We talked with Axelrod about the "Real Clear Politics" average of recent polls and the electoral map.
WALLACE: Here's a list of the key swing states I want to ask you about. You are trailing in Wisconsin, you are trailing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa, and, as you suggest, you are basically tied in what for you is the must must-win state of Virginia where the Obama campaign has also made a late ad buy.
We're going to get to the specific states in a moment, but I want to ask you about the general point. Are you saying that these polls, public polls are wrong, or are you saying they may be right, but you're going to win any way because your ground game is better and you're going to turn the voters out more effectively than they are.
BEESON: Well, these polls are like nailing jell-o to a tree, the polls are all over the place and you're going to see polls different in each state by each day. But there are two numbers to keep in mind, across the country and specific states, it will matter even more.
One is independent. Independents are going to decide this race in all of these states. Governor Romney consistently leads among independents because they've seen his message for creating 12 million jobs, real recovery, strengthening the middle class.
The second number, you've got an incumbent president who has been running for the job for the last four years since the day he got elected, and, who had raised and spent over $1 billion and is stuck well below 50, at 48, 47, 46, in all of these polls. When you are an incumbent under 50, and well under 50, that's a bad place to be.
WALLACE: Let's look at -- obviously, this has been your focus, so far -- early voting, absentee ballot voting and, let's take look at some of those numbers. This is nationally. At this point, more than half a million fewer Democrats have voted than in final early voting in 2008. While more Republicans have voted already, early, than did in the final voting, in four years ago.
But, the Democrats still lead, as you can see, there, by almost 600,000 votes. Now, Axelrod says, look, they are not going to do as well as they did four years ago. And, yes, you are doing better than John McCain. But, they are still going to beat you.
BEESON: Well, he can hope and wish all he wants.
There are two key points to that. They have been voting their high propensity voters, Chris. That's -- those are the voters who are going to turn out and vote under any circumstances. We have been concentrating on low propensity voters, voters who don't vote in every election. It's what the Obama campaign terms a sporadic voter. We've done much, much better job of getting our low propensity voters out to vote.
And on Election Day, we've got all of our high propensity voters ready to go vote on Election Day. Republicans, for whatever reason, tend to vote -- like to vote on Election Day. In Ohio, for example, we have 371,000 more high propensity Republicans than they have Democrats.
WALLACE: Let's look at Ohio, and we showed the early voting numbers, that you provided us for Ohio to Axelrod. But I want to look at the "Real Clear Politics" track of polls, in Ohio. And, this goes back, as you can see, more months.
And, you have never held a lead there. You got real close after the first debate, but, you have never had a lead there. Not once in Ohio and, in fact the Obama margin has grown slightly, recently.
BEESON: Well, there is only one number that will matter and that's the one on Election Day and we are confident Governor Romney is going to prevail in Ohio on Election Day. Again, the sub-point to Ohio, when you look at all of the polls, at least 24, 25 public polls in 21 of them governor Romney is leading with independents and not by a small margin but by a double-digit margin and uninvolved with Ohio politics or across the country will tell you, the candidate who wins independents in Ohio is going to win the Ohio election.
So, we are very confident about the race there. When you see President Obama is going to underperform badly in the southeastern part of the state, in the coal counties, with Lima the Lima Tank Factory in Lima, when Vice President Biden went on his debate and said the Defense Department doesn't need anymore M1 tanks and, Lima Tank Factory is the only place in the country that refurbishes those tanks.
So, you're going to see pockets of disaffection in Ohio that are going to cut into their margins. And, again, at the end of the day, I feel good about Governor Romney's message and our turnout operations.
WALLACE: Your campaign started running an ad in Ohio, this week, which implies that Jeep is shipping U.S. jobs to China, when in fact they are just expanding their operations to China, but, they are not actually shipping U.S. jobs overseas.
I want to play a clip of the ad and then how President Obama responded to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: Obama took G.M. and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China.
OBAMA: You don't scare up workers to scare up votes. That's not what it is about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Rich, wasn't that a mistake, especially when G.M. and Chrysler both said that the ad was basically misleading and the fact is, that Chrysler, far from shipping jobs to Ohio is actually expanding operations in Toledo?
BEESON: Well, I find it interesting that President Obama would attack Governor Romney on that when they put up an ad, saying that, you know, Governor Romney said, let Detroit go bankrupt when that's a headline from "The New York Times" op-ed. And, the second thing, is President Obama talking about scaring people, when, yesterday he's out there saying, voting is the best revenge.
So, this gets back to a president who says, when you can't talk about big issues, you talk about small things. So, rather than talking about a $16 trillion deficit, or 12 million jobs or putting America back to work, he is talking about Big Bird and he's talking about voting for revenge.
So, that's why you see Governor Romney opening up leads, in -- now Minnesota yesterday, Pennsylvania has moved into a tie, Michigan has moved into a tie, all of these states were not target states three weeks ago and it is because of Governor Romney's message.
WALLACE: Now, you say the states, Pennsylvania moved into a tie and according to the "Real Clear Politics' average, I think it's a four-point margin for Obama.
BEESON: Last night, there was a Susquehanna poll that came out last night, and it was 47-47. Again, President Obama well under 50, in a state that he should be well over 50. There is a million more Democrats in Pennsylvania, than there are Republicans.
And, it's important to remember that energy is a very important issue in the state of Pennsylvania and, in 2008, and the Democrat primary, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by double digits, after Barack Obama was the presumptive nominee for his party. So, Pennsylvania is fertile ground for us.
WALLACE: Finally, what will you be looking at, early on election night? What states, what counties? Secondly, what -- is it going to be -- how will you know whether it's going to be an early or a long night? And how long do you think it is going to take for to us figure out who is the next president?
BEESON: Well, there's going to be a lot of key bellwethers. What we are seeing consistently from the early absentee ballot numbers, that there is a general underperforming in places where President Obama needs to do well and there's an over-performing in places where Governor Romney does well.
There is an intensity factor out there on the side of the Republicans, and it is a significant gap and we see it when people are knocking on the doors and, on the ground and when people are making the phone calls and it gets to the simple fact that Governor Romney is out there talking about big things and big change, not about small things. And so I think as we start seeing returns coming in from New Hampshire, from southeastern Pennsylvania, from northern Virginia, from Cuyahoga County in Ohio, I think it is going to become pretty clear that there is going to be a widespread repudiation of the Obama administration, and, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan will be elected the next president and vice president of the United States.
BEESON: And I think people don't have to look very long to know that.
WALLACE: You say not waiting long, what are you predicting? You got 30 seconds, are you saying we're going to know earlier that we thought?
BEESON: I'm saying that Pennsylvania and Michigan and Minnesota are not past the 270, as Mr. Axelrod would like to purport. Those are past the 300. This is going to be a big election and Governor Romney is going to win it.
WALLACE: You are predicting over 300 electoral votes?
BEESON: It is going to be a big win for Governor Romney.
WALLACE: Rich, thank you. Thanks for sitting down with us for your first national TV interview. We'll see how the turnout battle goes in the closing hours of this race, and whether it turns out as well as you think it is going to. Thanks so much.
BEESON: Chris, thank you very much.
WALLACE: Up next, we'll drill down into the electoral map, which states are truly undecided and where are the best chances for each side to score an unexpected win. Our Sunday panel, including Karl Rove, gives us the inside scoop, when we come right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
OBAMA: Mitt Romney.
OBAMA: No, no, no. Don't boo. Vote! Vote!
OBAMA: Voting is the best revenge.
ROMNEY: He told his supports, voting for revenge. Vote for revenge? Let me tell you what I'd like to tell you, vote for love of country.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: President Obama and Mitt Romney going after each other to the final moment of this long, tough 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 Crossroad and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times.
Well, we have been working up until now with the Real Clear Politics map. We're going to throw that away. Let's go to the Rove map compiled by our colleague...
ROVE: Rove-Trippi map, please.
WALLACE: Oh, OK. The Rove-Trippi - well, except I see it on Rove.com.
ROVE: Well, I tried to get him to get into the 20th Century...
WALLACE: OK, based on recent polling let's put it up. And Karl, as of last week you and Joe had states in various shades of blue with 221 electoral votes, solid or leaning Obama, states in red and pink with 206 electoral votes, solid or leaning Romney, and 9 toss-up states with 111 electoral votes. Any changes as of today.
ROVE: Well, there is no evidence of massive changes. There are some that would argue that Michigan and Nevada should have been lean Obama before last week, but look, we have a very close election in which it is going to be decided on election night with a bunch of potential surprises.
WALLACE: You have a white board...
ROVE: Think about this, on -- on the 3rd of November, 2008, President Obama was at or above 50 percent in 7 of the 13 battleground states that year. In those same states this year, on the same date, four years later, President Obama is at 50 percent, not above 50 percent, but 50 percent in just two, Wisconsin and Nevada. And Wisconsin, that is -- he's only above - he's only at 50 percent, because there is one poll, an outlier that has an 8-point lead for him.
I mean, we have gone from cruising to victory in 2008 to a tight, tight, tight race in 2012.
WALLACE: One last question, and I'll bring in everybody else in, what do you make of Romney going to Pennsylvania today? What do you make of Obama with last-minute ad buys in Florida and Virginia? Who has got some wind at the back? Who is serious? Who is bluffing?
ROVE: They are all serious and they are not bluffing. I mean, President Obama has difficulty in Florida and Virginia. These are two of the states where the Real Clear Politics average goes to Romney. And, Pennsylvania has to come into play, and, if President Obama was comfortable with Pennsylvania he wouldn't be putting up television advertising there. And, if Governor Romney thought it was a bluff he wouldn't be spending time -- they are deadly serious and the race is very much up for grabs and we'll have last-minute surprises.
I don't know whether Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan are really in play. But, I think they are.
TRIPPI: I just don't think Michigan and Minnesota are. I think, it doesn't make sense to me that Pennsylvania and Florida are both in play. In other words, if Pennsylvania is really in play, Florida should be put away in the bag for Romney.
So look, I think everything is up for grabs, right now. And I think -- personally, I think it is a mistake for Romney to go to Pennsylvania. It is going to turn up the Democratic vote in Philadelphia, So, I don't really quite understand that part of their strategy.
But, I do think that Florida and Virginia, are in play. And that is sort of stunning right now. For me, that the Obama people still think they have shots at those two states.
WALLACE: Brit, you saw the list of swing states. And in fact, there's a bigger list, it's really about a dozen states, in 9 of the 12 states, Obama leads by 1 to 5 points over Romney, this was in the Real Clear Politics average. It seems to me there are three possibilities. Either one, the polls are wrong, two, Romney's ground game will beat this difference, the margin in the polls or Obama is going to win. Do you have any feelings about that?
HUME: We are under such an avalanche of polling data now like we have never seen before, that you can construct a quite plausible scenario for any of the three possibilities you mentioned and probably a couple of others.
I think the conventional wisdom is trending towards an Obama win, something along the lines of what Karl Rove and his team pulled off for President Bush in 2004. But, I'm by no means certain. And there is a striking discrepancy between national polls which tend to be done by and large by older, more seasoned polling firms and a lot of state polls, a number of which are done by less established firms. The national polls have this a tie. The state polls, as you just suggested, the battle ground state polls, suggest and indicate that President Obama is ahead in nearly all of them.
It is -- seems striking that there would be this difference. And we don't know. But, it is sobering, if you are a Romney supporter to think that he is trailing or, just tied, in so many of those states.
Could the polls be wrong? I think they could. Whether they will be, well, that is what we are waiting to find out.
WALLACE: Jeff, you have been traveling the country for weeks, for months. Your sense of where the race stands, 48 hours out.
JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: Things are different in battleground states because of the deluge of advertising, that's really been going on for weeks and months out there. So people in Ohio, people in Iowa, Florida, Virginia have a different sense of the race than people do nationally. And the reason that Pennsylvania is potentially in play here at the end, because there has not been a lot of advertising. So they are experiencing the race as everyone else is.
But in the battleground states -- I was in Ohio this week, Wisconsin and Iowa this week and one thing you pick up is there is a real sense of enthusiasm for the Romney campaign. There aren't Republicans -- I did not run into one Republican voter at rallies or just on the street at other things, who are not happy about electing Mitt Romney as opposed to electing someone to beat President Obama, that is a significant change.
And on the other side, the excitement and enthusiasm is not there as it was four years ago for President Obama. Does it matter? Perhaps not. I mean, he will not win by the margins -- if he wins he is not going to win by these margins, from a -- from 2008.
One thing at the end of this campaign, these sort of -- I talked to at a lot of Republican advisers in Boston and elsewhere this week. The confidence is in the uncertainty of what is going to happen as opposed to the confidence in their strength of position in a Florida or a Virginia. They are really not sure what is going to happen in those states and that is a potential problem for them.
WALLACE: When you heard, as you just did, Axelrod and Beeson each make their cases about ground game, early voting, voter intensity. Who do you think has the better side of that argument?
ZELENY: I think the organic intensity, no question, is on the side of the Romney campaign. The turnout operation, we'll find out on Tuesday, it is a really hard thing to measure from the outside but it is why the Obama campaign started so early and have been building up so much.
So, if they are as good as they were in '08 and as good as they say they are, they'll have a better turnout organization. But organically I believe it is on the side of Republicans.
WALLACE: Karl, you have been through this in 2000 and 2004. Did you ever - I mean, because we do have a disparity here. I mean, if you look at the Real Clear Politics average, Obama is leading in the states to get to 270.
WALLACE: Did you ever, with George W. Bush, in either of those two elections, go into Election Day behind in state polls, and you were able to turn it around, either through voter intensity or through just the sheer power of your ground game?
ROVE: Oh, sure, absolutely. But, it has to be very, very close. And, look, we don't know how close some of these are because, again, I think Rick made an excellent point, the quality of these state-level polls is questionable.
Take, for example, Wall Street Journal/NBC polling, Ohio had a 6- point lead for Obama, but it had 9 points more Democrats and Republicans, meaning the turnout for Democrats would be more enthusiastic than it was in '08.
National polls, take a look at the last week. You use the RCP average, which is I think 10 polls, take all 22 polls that were conducted as of midnight, last night, Romney leads in 12, and Obama leads in 4, tied in 6, and, Romney is at or above 50 percent in three, Obama one. And the average of them, 48.2 to 47.5, that is pretty darn close.
But you get a sense of underneath a strength for Romney that might be expressed particularly against an incumbent. Incumbent is -- gets not much more than the number they got in their final poll is what they get on Election Day.
WALLACE: Joe, final thought?
TRIPPI: Yes, I think both these campaigns, what Rich Beeson said was correct, both campaigns believe that they can get to over 300 electoral votes. It's because their models are so different. One of them is going to be right and one is going to be wrong.
WALLACE: Which are their models, explain?
TRIPPI: I mean, they think -- if you look at what they think they can turn out in early votes, how that adds up with what they can turn out on Election Day, how many plus Ds or plus Rs they're going to -- you know...
WALLACE: What percentage of Republicans and Democrats...
TRIPPI: Right, are going to be there, what the turnout is going to be? Both have different models for how they look at these states. And I think Beeson is sincere when he says they're going to win 300. I think Axelrod believes they're going to win 300. One of them is really, really wrong. One of them is right. And, the experts can't tell you which is which.
ROVE: They have a very different view of the role of independents, that they play in this. You heard Axelrod glossed over I, Beeson said independents are going to be dispositive. And I think Joe is absolutely right. They have got two different world views.
WALLACE: We have to take a break here, but when we come back we'll talk about the latest jobs report and other factors that may decide who wins the presidency on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
OBAMA: We have tried our ideas, and they have worked. We tried their ideas, and they don't work.
ROMNEY: If anyone wonders whether good jobs and better take home pay are out there, I've got a clear and unequivocal message for you. And that is America is about to come roaring back.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
WALLACE: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney with their closing arguments to voters on the economy. And we're back now with the panel. Well, we got the final jobs report of the campaign on Friday, let's take a look at the numbers. It showed the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent, 0.1 of a point up. But the economy created a better-than-expected 171,000 jobs.
Brit, the housing industry is picking up, consumer confidence is at a four-and-a-half-year high as we go into Election Day. How is the economy, the prime issue, now coming in this race?
HUME: It is still, in my judgment, cutting against the president, no question about it. And I think this jobs report confirms that we have a continuing anemic recovery. It is a drag on him, the biggest drag, because it is the biggest issue, doesn't mean he won't win, but I don't think that this jobs report gives him any real comfort or gives people much comfort, that his ideas, as he said, in that sound bite, which have been tried, are working.
WALLACE: Jeff, you know, two questions, as you travel around the country. One, has the president dealt with the economic issue in a way to kind of defuse it? And, secondly, how does the facts of the economy made it less of a negative for Obama than it was earlier in the race?
ZELENY: I think it is probably less of a negative than it was earlier in the race. When you talk about this national number, the state-by-state numbers are different. The unemployment rate, for example, in the state of Ohio, is at 7 percent. People feel better there about the economy.
Now I'm not sure if a voter in Ohio sort of thinks he is in a better place than a voter in Florida just because the unemployment rate is slightly lower. But you have a sense out there from these Republican governors in Ohio, in Wisconsin, in Iowa, the economy is better. And that is helping the president in some of these battleground areas.
It is worse in Nevada, obviously, the highest rate of foreclosures and unemployment of any battleground state. But found sort of in this, the Midwest firewall that President Obama needs to hold, the economy is doing better, because of manufacturing, and, you know, the auto industry and other things, so I think that is sort of propping him up here and...
WALLACE: ... all of Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
WALLACE: The other big story, Karl, this week was Hurricane Sandy, the way that it froze the campaign, the way that it allowed the president to look presidential doing his job. And, then there was a powerful political image and let's put that up, certainly the most powerful political image of this final week: Obama walking the Jersey Shore with Republican Governor Chris Christie, who praised him, effusively.
Karl, how much did Hurricane Sandy help the president's prospects this Tuesday, and how much has it hurt Romney?
ROVE: Well, it was the October surprise, it was actually a surprise, a storm hits, the president responds. I think it helped him initially, but, I think it has been, as -- whatever small advantage he gained from it is being eroded by the images that people are seeing on their television screens. No doubt in my mind that we're going to...
WALLACE: You mean the long lines for gas, people still without...
ROVE: People without food, you know, people dumpster-diving in Manhattan. And this is -- these images don't particular say confidence and quick response. And, look, the president again is out there campaigning as opposed to appearing to be tending to business.
But, look, minor improvement. I think it has been eroded away a little bit. But, in a close race those kinds of things obviously have an impact. If I could say one thing about the economy. Remember, people's attitudes about the economy, in these individual states, they are not just looking at their state, like in Ohio, we have polling data that says people credit Kasich rather than Obama for the jobs.
People look at the nation's economy, and the slow growth -- I mean, at the rate we are going it's going to take us three more years to get back to the level of employment that we had when the recession began. In the meantime, we'll have a seven-year backlog of people looking for jobs. And people know that in their bones, they just know it.
WALLACE: Joe, both Sandy and the economy, your thoughts?
TRIPPI: I agree with Karl on Sandy. I think initially it helped the president. I don't think any of the negatives will impact by Election Day that might accrue because of the things Karl is talking about.
But I do think that the economy, while it's been a drag, has -- one, has been improving, but you see it in the president's numbers, his approval ratings going up and been up above 50 in some of these polls, a lot of them.
In Iowa last night, they released a new Iowa poll that showed for the first time, "right track," the majority of Iowans think the country is on the right track. That's -- that's been going up in national polls as well, but that's because they see an improving economy, and that is accruing to the president in a way that would have hurt him six weeks ago; it's not hurting him as badly now. People think things are improving.
WALLACE: But, Brit...
TRIPPI: I think that will make a difference.
WALLACE: But, nationally, Brit, people still, by a wide margin -- I think it's like two-thirds of the country thinks that it's a -- the country's on the wrong track?
HUME: Once again, we have this discrepancy, state-level differences from national sentiment. We see it in the polling for the two candidates in the horse race numbers and so forth, and we are about to find out whether these state-level sentiments that are measured with relatively small samples of voters turn out to be correct.
I would -- I think it's unlikely that -- you know, it's hard to imagine as a political journalist that all these many polls are off. But -- but the discrepancy is unmistakable and puzzling.
WALLACE: Let me go down the line here -- and I know who I'm going to ask for predictions and who I'm not, but let me -- let me start with you, Jeff. Your best guess about Tuesday night. I mean, are we going to know earlier than we think or is it going to be one of those all-nighters that stretches into Wednesday morning?
ZELENY: I don't think we're necessarily going to know earlier and here's why. A lot of these ballots in states are long. There are a lot of statewide initiatives and judges, things. And I was talking to an early voter in Florida who said that she was intimidated by her ballot because it was so long and it's been, sort of, sitting on her coffee table at home. She's been procrastinating, putting it off. So I think that is going to, sort of, slow things down on election night. So I do not think we're going to have an early result.
WALLACE: And is there a county, a precinct, a couple that you're going to look at really early and say, well, this gives me a sense how this night's going?
ZELENY: Hamilton County, Ohio, Cincinnati, where, four years ago, President Obama was the first Democrat in a long time to win that state -- or to win Hamilton County -- if he is doing well there, or wins Hamilton County, I think he likely wins Ohio. So that's one place I'll be looking for.
WALLACE: Karl, your sense of how long a night it's going to be? And also, give me a place you're going to be looking. You're going to be with me back there at our space cowboys desk. What are you going to be looking at early?
ROVE: Yeah, I'm going to be looking at some of the early states to, sort of, see the difference between in, say, Indiana and Virginia, with where -- and Kentucky -- where the president was four years ago and where he is today. But I think Jeff is absolutely right. I'm going to be looking not only at Hamilton but also, then...
WALLACE: In Ohio?
ROVE: In Ohio, but also Clermont, Warren, Butler, these counties that are in southwest Ohio and then some of the more rural counties in the state and the ex-urban counties around Cleveland and Columbus, to find out.
TRIPPI: I think Ohio is going to be everything. And I think whoever wins Ohio is going to win the thing. I think we'll actually have some indications from Hamilton County and some of the other counties that Karl has talked about that we'll be both looking -- looking at with you that night, on election night, that are going to tell us how that's going. So that's the one I'll be watching.
WALLACE: Your guess, a long night or a short night?
TRIPPI: I think Obama's going to win Ohio. I've thought that for six or seven weeks, but -- and I think, if he does, he's president.
HUME: I'll be watching Virginia, where I live. Over the weekend I was there and, if my answering machine could vote, it could be decisive because we've heard from both campaigns repeatedly.
So we'll see. Virginia is going to be very important.
WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you all next week. By then, we hope we'll know who the president is.
And don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion on our web site, foxnewssunday.com. We'll post the video before noon Eastern Time. And make sure to follow us on Twitter @foxnewssunday. Up next, we go on the trail.
WALLACE: The presidential campaign hit the pause button for a few days this week when Hurricane Sandy barreled up the East Coast. But, by week's end, the fury on the shoreline had been replaced by the sound and fury on the trail.
OBAMA: Obviously, everybody is aware at this point that this is going to be a big and powerful storm.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: It's been a great working relationship to make sure that we're doing the jobs that people elected us to do.
ROMNEY: We don't need a secretary of business to understand business. We need a president who understands business, and I do.
Ad that's why...
OBAMA: Governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up the very same policies that failed our country so badly.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WIS., VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mitt Romney and I are campaigning on big ideas, on real reforms for a real recovery.
VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.: Folks, a president's job is not to sow confusion; it is to plant seeds of confidence.
OBAMA: We've made real progress, but we are here today because we know we've got more work to do.
ROMNEY: The door to a brighter future is there. It's open. It's waiting for us.
OBAMA: We'll win this election. We'll renew those bonds that tie us together as a people.
ROMNEY: We dream; we aspire; we reach for greater things; and we will achieve greater things with new leadership.
WALLACE: And now, this program note: Tuesday night, stay tuned to this Fox station starting at 7 p.m. Eastern, and Fox News Channel starting at 6 p.m., for complete coverage of the 2012 election. And we promise we'll stay on the air until we can tell you who won.
And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you back in Washington, next "Fox News Sunday."
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The countdown is on. We'll be joined by Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook about their plans for the final week.
Sunday: With three weeks to go and with early voting underway, we’ll have an exclusive debate between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, and Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Clinton backer, about the race.