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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Former Governor Tim Pawlenty; Enormous Python Found; Cases of West Nile Virus Increase; Powerball Jackpot Up to $320 Million; Campaign Rhetoric Getting Downright Toxic

Aired August 15, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning: lashing out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to put y'all back in chains.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, take your campaign, the division and anger and hate back to Chicago, and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Both the Romney camp and the Obama camp attacking each other with some of the nastiest rhetoric yet in the race for the White House.

Also, fear and chaos. A bomb hidden in a fuel truck rocks Syria this morning. Were U.N. observes being targeted?

And outbreak. The West Nile virus is being spread faster than ever across the entire United States.

We've got a packed show ahead this morning. The former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will be our guest. Wildlife expert Ron Magill. And also from "Lawless," actor Dane DeHaan is going to join us.

It's Wednesday, August 15th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

Our team this morning: Bridget Siegel is with us. We talked to her a couple of weeks ago about her new book that she has just written. She was also the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign finance director when she was 24 years old.

Nice to have you with us this morning.

Ben Smith is back is with us. He's the editor-in-chief at "BuzzFeed."

And Margaret Hoover worked in the Bush White House.

It's nice to have you with us as well.

STARTING POINT this morning is the Romney and Obama campaigns going on the offensive at the same time? And what that means is nasty rhetoric, really nastier than ever.

Listen to the way that Mitt Romney characterized the president after Vice President Biden said that Romney and Republicans would put people back in chains.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better. He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.

So, Mr. President, take your campaign, the division, and anger, and hate, back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. Kind of equally nasty from the Obama campaign, who said, quote, "Governor Romney's comments tonight seemed unhinged, and particularly strange coming at a time when he is pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false."

So, joining us this morning to talk about all of that is Minnesota -- former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. He's live in Minneapolis. He is also the national co-chair for the Romney campaign.

It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for getting with us this morning.

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Good morning. Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Desperate. Unhinged -- thank you. Appreciate that.

"Politico" has a headline, and the headline is this. The depth of the high-minded campaign. Do you think that's an accurate headline?

PAWLENTY: Well, I hope not. This should be a campaign about the bread and butter meat and potato issues facing the country. And for most Americans, that's the economy and whether they're going to have a job or their loved ones are going to have a job.

President Obama has had a chance for four years. We've got this terrible unemployment, an anemic, sputtering economy. It hasn't worked.

So we should be having a debate about Mitt Romney's vision for how he's going to make it better, and this back-and-forth doesn't do either side or the country as well as it could. And we have a president who won't even disclaim an ad that accuses Mitt Romney of killing a gentleman's wife, which turned out to not be even close to factually true.

So, at bare minimum, he should have the decency to at least disclaim the lowest of the low, and he won't even do that.

O'BRIEN: Well, it seems like the ads on all sides I think in all fairness have been stretching the truth or being over the top maybe fair to say as well.

Let me play a bit of a new Mitt Romney ad, which is about Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: You paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck. Now when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare.

So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that's not for you.

The Romney-Ryan plan protects Medicare benefits for today's seniors and strengthens the plan for the next generation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's the new ad about Medicare, which is a topic that everybody is talking about. Let's walk through the specific words. That ad says President Obama has cut $716 billion. And the CBO would say, and has said, it really is a reduction over 10 years in spending. That's from their March 30th, 2011, report. The payment rates for most services, permanent reductions in the payment rates.

But the next thing it is in that ad, money you paid for guaranteed health care. But isn't that just specifically not true? I mean, it's not money anybody's paid yet. It's future spending which still goes up. Isn't that just patently untrue in that ad?

PAWLENTY: No. That's not correct, Soledad. There's only one person in this race of the candidates running, president or vice president, who has proposed, signed into law, and voted for a cut in Medicare, and it's a big one, and that's the $716 billion, and his name is Barack Obama.

So it is not beyond factual. It is absolutely beyond factual dispute that he's cut $716 billion out of the money that was projected to be spent on Medicare over the next 10 years. And that would have been reimbursement --

O'BRIEN: But it's not a cut in Medicare. Let me read from the CBO.

PAWLENTY: It's a cut --

O'BRIEN: It's a permanent reduction --

PAWLENTY: -- compared to what they planned on spending.

O'BRIEN: -- in annual updates to Medicaid payments. So it's a cut in future spending. And it's cuts that actually go to insurers, right? It's not cuts to individuals.

PAWLENTY: I know exactly what it is. Here's what it is. It's cuts to payments to medical providers so over the next 10 years, they are going to get paid less than they would have otherwise been paid, which has all sorts of market implications and --

O'BRIEN: Right, because they agreed to it. And those medical providers agreed to it because they said by bringing more people into the system, that offsets those cuts.

PAWLENTY: No matter how you say this, it is a cut to Medicare. You can't even look your viewers in the eye and say it's not a cut in Medicare.

O'BRIEN: Well, I can't look viewers in the eye from where I am. I'm not saying either thing. I'm saying the way the CBO puts it, the permanent reduction in annual updates to payment rates for most services. That is a savings, if you're talking about it --

PAWLENTY: Do you know what that is in English?

O'BRIEN: I speak English incredibly well, sir, as you know. Tell me what it is in English.

PAWLENTY: In plain speaking it's this. And I just mean compared to the mumbo jumbo of the bureaucracy in the CBO. They were saying it was going to go up by one, and now it's going up by less than $719 billion, excuse me.

So, there's no question that's a cut compared to where current law was before Obamacare was passed. You can't -- there's no way you can present that in any other way.

O'BRIEN: Or you could call it a savings. But let's move on for a moment. That $716 billion is the core of Paul Ryan's budget, right? It's part of his budget. He uses that same number, that same figure.

I don't understand how you can slam President Obama for it on one hand, and Republicans can vote for it both in March of 2011 and in March of 2012 virtually every Republican voted for it and cheered it. It seems very contradictory.

PAWLENTY: Well, here's how you can distinguish it. First, no Republicans voted for Obamacare. So let's keep that clear.

Two, Mitt Romney, who's actually running for president of the United States and is Obama's opponent for president, has promised to restore that $716 billion. So that's a major difference between these two candidates.

O'BRIEN: Well, OK. But you know House Republicans voted for the Ryan budget. So virtually every Republican did vote for it. And Mitt Romney's budget, honestly, is incredibly unclear. It's very, very vague. Let's play a chunk of Paul Ryan talking to Brit Hume trying to defend the budget, and he had a hard time telling him what the numbers would look like, and this man is the face of number crunching in the House.

PAWLENTY: I'll listen to this, but I want a chance to come back to this Ryan vote as well, because it's different than Obamacare.

O'BRIEN: It is different. Let's play a little bit of Ryan talking to Brit Hume, trying to figure out the numbers of what a Romney budget would look like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: The budget plan that you're now supporting would get to balance when?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they're different -- the budget plan that Mitt Romney is supporting gets us down to 20 percent of GDP government spending by 2016. That means get the size of government back to where it historically has been.

What President Obama has done is he has brought the size of government to as high as it hasn't been since World War II. We want to reduce the size of government to have more economic freedom.

HUME: I get that. But what about balance?

RYAN: Well, I don't know exactly when it balances because I don't want to get wonky on you, but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He doesn't want to get wonky because he hasn't run the numbers because the plan is very vague. The plan is very, very vague.

PAWLENTY: Well, Soledad, a couple of things. First of all, we know that Governor Romney's plan moves towards and puts the country on a path towards balancing the budget much more rapidly and dramatically than President Obama has in mind, which is trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and the debt and the deficit growing.

But I want to get back to the point you made before the break, which is you can't compare the House Republicans vote for the Ryan proposal to save Medicare to the vote to support Obamacare, which cuts Medicare by $716 billion. Those are two very different things.

In the case of the Ryan plan, the House members voted as they did but in an effort to save Medicare through a different approach.

O'BRIEN: They are using the same numbers.

You're right. They are different things, but they -- but that $716 is the same $716 billion. Which is the one hand Obama opponents are saying it's terrible, but if it's in the Ryan budget, they vote for it twice.

PAWLENTY: Well, two things. One is you can't compare the House vote for the Ryan plan with the Obama care vote. I understand what you're saying about the $716. But those are two different proposals and you're cross pollinating the two rhetorically.

But beyond that, there's one person in the race that says he will restore that $716 billion and hasn't supported those cuts, and that's Mitt Romney.

But the broader point is this, we clearly have a problem in Medicare and our entitlement programs, more broadly. I think reasonable people can dispute that. Governor Romney and Paul Ryan have put specific proposals on the table to gut them but to save them. They may not like those proposals but they actually save the programs and they are needed, and they are adult detailed specific proposals.

And guess what? We have a president of the United States, the leader of our country, when we have one of the most important financial challenges of our country, he won't even put a specific proposal on the table. Beyond his cuts, where is the president's specific proposal to save Medicare? Where is his specific proposal to save Social Security? Where is his proposal to save Medicaid?

Other than relentless calls to increase taxes, most not even related to the details of saving those programs, you can't find them.

O'BRIEN: Well, we're going to have to continue our conversation because I'm out of time. And you open up the whole tax thing, which we could get to, but that would take another 15 minutes of chatting back and forth.

PAWLENTY: You have me come back.

O'BRIEN: It's a deal. Thank you.

PAWLENTY: And we'll have a supplement.

O'BRIEN: I accept that. I would love to that have that, sir. You know that. Thanks, Mr. Pawlenty. We certainly appreciate it, Governor. We are grateful to have you.

PAWLENTY: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We've got to get to John Berman. He's got the rest of the stories making news today. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad.

A bomb blast in Syria this morning behind a hotel where U.N. monitors are staying. Syria state TV reporting an explosive device and a diesel tanker detonated behind the building in Damascus. U.N. monitors are said to be safe, but three other people were reportedly injured.

Throughout the country, opposition groups say at least 34 people have been killed in violence so far today.

Right now, there are 62 out of control wildfires burning in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington state, and California. In Idaho, a firefighter has been killed.

We have some heartbreaking video now of two fires just north of San Francisco.

Three buildings have been destroyed and 500 homes are now threatened.

And in Washington state, more pictures. The National Guard has been activated there. More than 60 homes have been burned already. Another 900 people are evacuating.

And I want to bring in Rob Marciano, because, Rob, these pictures are pretty bad, and it looks to be getting worse.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, the heat is going to be building across the Northwest so the fire just east of Seattle there in central Washington, their worst in decades, will be feeling the heat the next couple of days and that will make things a little bit worst. Ninety in Seattle expected tomorrow, near 100 in both Portland and Salem. These areas don't typically have a lot of air conditioning.

So, temperatures will be near record breaking in those cases. And red flag warnings have been posted for that reason as well. And also, a little front that's going to be moving through the northern tier.

Heat has been the story across parts of the South. Southern California has its own fires to deal with. The Desert Southwest has seen temperatures 113, 117. More records falling across Phoenix. They haven't been below 110 in over a week.

The heat will continue out West. A bit of cooling for the western Great Lakes and the Midwest.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: Thanks, Rob. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: health emergency. A wet spring and then the sweltering summer is a perfect recipe for a West Nile outbreak.

Plus, a giant python seemed to be taking over south Florida. And the big problem, of course, is that they are killing animals there. Some eating alligators and sometimes deer. We're going to talk to a wildlife expert about the situation there.

You're watching STARTING POINT. Short break, we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. A terrifying and record-breaking find in the Florida Everglades. It's this. This giant Burmese python. Largest ever caught in the national park, 17 1/2 feet long, weighs 164.5 pounds. And when they captured her, she had 87 fertilized eggs. This snake is just the tip of the iceberg, apparently. Yes, exactly.

Florida's everglades could be damaged by an onslaught of invasive species. Ron Magill joins us from Miami this morning. He's a wildlife expert, also communications director of Zoo Miami. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us. This was just really, really crazy when you see pictures of that massive python. Tell me a little bit about the capture. It was captured alive.

RON MAGILL, WILDLIFE EXPERT: Yes. Absolutely. It was captured alive. And basically, they used her as a bait to get other pythons. They put a transmitter in her knowing that when she releases (ph) that males will come to her, and hopefully, get other males. And that they were able to do, and then, basically pulled her out of the wild when they knew she was laden with eggs to make sure she didn't lay those eggs in the wild.

O'BRIEN: She'd been in the Everglades for a long time. Was she a pet originally? Is that how all of these pythons and snakes are getting into the Everglades?

MAGILL: Generally speaking, yes. We have so many exotic animals. You know, Soledad, the problem is South Florida is basically the Ellis Island for exotic animals here in this country. And once they get out here in this South Florida environment, most of these tropical animals feel like they're like in club med.

And the python thing started many years ago, but really came to a crescendo after Hurricane Andrew when the urban legend is that a warehouse full of hundreds of these snakes was annihilated and these snakes just basically escaped into the wild. And now, they're all getting to breeding age, and we're getting this breathing going on. For now, we have thousands of these snakes in our environment, and it's a big problem.

BERMAN: Hey, Ron, It's John Berman here. We're all sitting around the table with our jaws on the floor here, mouths agape. We were all terrified. None of us ever want to go to Florida yet. I mean, how much of a threat to people are we talking here?

MAGILL: John, let me make something really clear. This is not going to be the last huge python they find. We're never going to get rid of pythons in the Everglades totally. I mean, people say, you know, we've got hunters going out there and trapping them. This is just a control effort. This is just an effort to learn more about them so we can control them. Having said that, the danger is really not to you specifically, not to humans specifically. It's to the environment. There's no such thing as a snake that's going to chase you down. You got a much greater chance of being struck by lightning than ever encountering one of these snakes. Having said that, what they do to the environment, what they're doing to the native species, the birds, the mammals within the Everglades, environment is already changing.

We've seen areas where we find pythons where there are no more rabbits, where there are no more raccoons, where there are no more bobcats. This could create a huge imbalance and difference here, and that's going to be a big problem for the environment down the line.

O'BRIEN: Ron Magill, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it. Ron is a wildlife expert at Zoo Miami. Good to know we can all go back to Florida. Appreciate that, sir.

Still ahead this morning, when kids travel alone on the plane, should men that they don't know sit next to them? There's a debate over discrimination versus safety, and that's our "Tough Call" straight ahead this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Our "Tough Call" today, an Australian airline has a policy that bars single men from sitting next to children who are traveling alone. The firestorm started online after a Virgin Australian flight attendant asked a male passenger who was sitting next to two young boys to trade seats and put a woman in his spot.

People say that's discriminatory, and supporters say no, it's actually protecting the children. Virgin Australia says they're going to review the policy. So, the question is, is this a tough call? What do you think?

HOOVER: Well, I will just jump in and say that Ben Smith actually likes this policy because he doesn't want to have to sit next to children.

SMITH: I think it's discriminating against women. I sit next to my own kids reluctantly that I can really --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I know. I have to say, I would rather have my kids sit next to a father. I find that really helpful. You know, I think it is discriminatory, and I think it's also silly, because there's no way to look at someone and determine -- and also women can be predators too. You know, people can be bad across the board.

HOOVER: It's assuming that all men are child predators.

O'BRIEN: Or potential child predators.

HOOVER: Or potential child predators, which is a bit over the line. O'BRIEN: Would you want -- when my kids have to sit next to somebody because we can't all sit next to me, we want a dad who says, do you play baseball? My son plays baseball. I don't know. I think that's going overboard. We'll see what the Virgin Australia ends up doing if they reverse that policy, because some people are very mad about it.

We want to know what you think about this story or any of our big stories this morning. You can send us a quick video 20 seconds total or we'll edit you down.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: If you want to make a point about the show, we're calling it "My End Point." We're going to pick one included in the show at our "End Point." Go to our blog at CNN.com/STARTINGPOINT if you want to send your video.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, her father was president, her mom gave it a shot. So, Chelsea Clinton says she's ready to step out of their shadows maybe and enter the political arena, possibly.

Joe the plumber, open mouth, insert foot. The Congressional candidate offers up his solution to illegal immigration. And it is sure to have a backlash today.

Plus, a state of emergency after an outbreak of West Nile virus in Texas. How serious is it? We're going to talk to a CDC official and Dr. Sanjay Gupta straight ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT. Break, and we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Ahead this morning, the West Nile virus is spreading faster than ever across the entire United States. There's now a state of emergency in effect in parts of Texas.

In just a few moments, we're going to be talking to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Beth Bell, she's with the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control.

First, though, I want to go to John Berman for an update on the day's stories. Good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. The suspect in a deadly shooting near the Texas A&M campus struggled for years with mental health issues. Thomas Caffall's mother said they were worried when he quit his job in January and said he would never work again. Police say Caffall killed two people before he was fatally shot by officers who were serving an eviction notice.

Police are investigating an explosion that destroyed a home and killed an 18-month-old boy in Brentwood, New York, on Long Island. At least 14 people were hospitalized. Authorities believe it was gas related. They found two 200-pound propane tanks at the scene.

Take a look at this. A plane pileup at Nashville international airport. Two private jets collided on a ramp and one ended up on top of the other, but no one was onboard either plane because authorities say one plane was being towed when it broke loose and rolled onto a second parked plane.

Evangelist Billy Graham is out of the hospital after being treated for bronchitis. The 93 year old was released after two days of treatment for bronchitis. Graham released a statement saying he got exceptional care and expressed his appreciation for love and support from people across the country.

Chelsea Clinton may be warming up to the idea of a career in politics. The daughter of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton, as if you had to be told, has always said no to following in her parents' footsteps, but now she's saying "I don't know." In an interview in "Vogue" magazine, she says "If it were to be a point where I felt it was something I was called to do, it would be a question I would have to ask and answer."

You know, there's a whole wave of second or third generation political names in the business right now. Joe Kennedy III running for Kennedy, Ben Quayle. Jeb's son is in politics as well.

O'BRIEN: Politics seem to be the worst job you could possibly -- and I realize you guys are all --

BERMAN: But once you got a taste for it. She got a taste of it in 2008. Never thought she would do it, and then unexpectedly liked campaigning for her mom during 2008.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And her reasoning also for getting into television is that when her grandmother passed away, she said to whom much is given, much is expected. And it really cultivated this desire she has for public service. So it does seem she aspires to something greater than television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's nice to see her saying I respect that my family thinks politics makes such a difference, and it's worth going into it. A lot of young people don't think that way.

O'BRIEN: If my kids wanted to go into politics, I would say, have you lost your mind? Do you not watch the nastiness, the sense of government being stuck, the 17 percent approval rating for congress?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But we need kids like yours to get into it and change that and make a difference.

O'BRIEN: You're a tremendous optimist, Bridget.

BEN SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think part of Barack Obama's appeal in 2008 was he was not somebody who inherited his name, you had Bush, Clinton, Bush, and I think there's a backlash. You have seen Kennedys lose because people are sick of the idea.

O'BRIEN: I can understand the --

SMITH: Would you tell them not to be a journalist?

O'BRIEN: I didn't say that. I absolutely did not say that. I said be a lawyer. No. I don't tell them what to be. I just say -- well, you know how I feel about it.

Moving on, let's talk about this outbreak of West Nile virus in Texas, worst in nearly a decade. So far, the mosquito borne disease has killed 16 people in the state, 10 of those deaths happened in Dallas County, where local officials are now declaring a state of emergency. And they are now planning to spray an insecticide. Officials with the centers for disease control say this year is on track to be the worst on record with deaths in several other states as well. Almost 700 reported infections nationwide.

We're going to talk to CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is with us this morning, and Dr. Beth Bell live from Atlanta. She is a medical epidemiologist and the director of the CDC's national center for emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases. That's quite a title, Dr. Bell. We appreciate you talking us with. Let's talk about why the spread is happening and so fast. These numbers are really staggering.

DR. BETH BELL, MEDICAL EPIDEMIOLOGIST, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Yes. Good morning, Soledad. This certainly is a very unusual year. This is more cases than we've ever seen by the second week of August since we've been tracking West Nile infection in the United States. West Nile transmission is really very complicated. It involves birds and mosquitoes and climate conditions. So it's very hard to be sure exactly why we've seen so many cases so early this year. Maybe related to the climate conditions in the winter and the spring.

It's important to realize that while certainly right now we have way more cases than we usually expect to see, by the second week of August, it's really hard to know what that is going to mean in terms of the rest of the season. There's all kinds of things that could happen that could mean that we'll be fortunate, and we won't continue to see the rapid increase that we've been seeing so far. But that's why it's really so important for all of us to be tracking the spread of West Nile virus in mosquitoes and birds and people as we have been.

O'BRIEN: And I guess knowing what it -- how it appears. So let me ask Sanjay. How do you know if you have West Nile virus? I know you and I have joked about this in the past, that the minute you start studying a disease you start feeling like you have it. What's a sign that you have West Nile?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me preface by saying that the majority of people who get West Nile will not have hardly any symptoms at all or it is so mild they won't realize they have West Nile. So when you look at the numbers of cases, keep in mind they are probably a lot of higher.

And people that have the mild illness, it's fever. They can have swollen lymph glands. They sometimes they get a characteristic rash usually on the chest, back, or stomach. That can happen. There's a more severe form that Dr. Bell was alluding to. But one in 150 cases have something known as a neuro-invasive form. That gets into the brain and spinal cord area, and that can cause someone to be lethargic. It can cause neck stiffness. You know, people can also get joint pain and nausea. So it can be sometimes vague.

But there's another important part to this, Soledad, and that is that it can take a while before symptoms appear. It can take three to 14 days. You may have been bitten some time ago and think there's no way it's related to that. But in fact there's an incubation period, and the symptoms can last for several months.

O'BRIEN: Now there's a debate, Dr. Bell, about spraying. And I guess ultimately it comes down to weighing the lesser of two evils. What are the risks with the spraying and the non-spraying?

BELL: Well, you know, we don't have a vaccine for West Nile virus. So really the only ways that we can prevent people from getting sick from West Nile virus is to prevent people from getting bitten by infected mosquitoes. And there's two main ways to do that. One is by using repellent and other personal protective measures. And the second is by mosquito control, and that's spraying.

You know, spraying is actually something that local communities do pretty commonly for lots of reasons. And it's one of the methods that communities that are highly affected by West Nile virus use. These pesticides are -- have been studied by the environmental protection agency for safety and for effectiveness specifically for this purpose, for use in residential settings.

Also states have a certification requirement for the people that are going to be applying the pesticides. So use of EPA registered pesticides by certified applicators according to the way that it's recommended, is very, very safe, and most importantly we know it's highly effective. There's very strong scientific evidence to indicate that if you reduce the population of mosquitoes using mosquito control methods like spraying, you will reduce the number of people that get West Nile virus infection.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Bell and Dr. Gupta, the doctors joining me this morning, nice to have you both. Certainly appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it.

BELL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, $320 million and counting. That is the Powerball jackpot. It's affecting 22 states, approaching a record. We'll take you live to times square where folks have lined up to buy their tickets right now.

Plus, rising Hollywood star Dane Dehaan is in the house. He'll tell us about his new movie "Lawless." It looks really good. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Tonight's Powerball jackpot is tonight, which means you have to buy it right now, $320 million. Jason Carroll is live for us near New York's Times Square. Customers have been buying tickets al morning. How is it going?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now that I have my ticket, I'm much better. The drawing tonight, 10:59 eastern time, a lot of people coming out this morning buying up the power ball tickets. Yesterday we saw much of the same, people coming out and buying tickets, talking about what they would do if they had the chance to win $320 million. As you can imagine, Soledad, a lot of different ideas flowing. Some people saying they would buy new homes. Some pay for their kids' college education. Listen to what some people said they would do with the money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd probably buy a giant parcel of land and start an animal rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'd buy a race horse.

CARROLL: That's the most extravagant thing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And an apartment on fifth avenue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess I would pay off all my bills, big bills, buy a house, invest. You know, and then my family. Go back home for a while, the islands. And then charity, you know, stuff like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: Perhaps if you're out in the Midwest, your chances might be a little bit better. Two of the luckiest states, Indiana and Wisconsin, Indiana with 46 winners, Wisconsin I think with 41. So if you're in those two states, maybe your chances will be a little bit better. Actually, the odds we're hearing, 175 million to one. But it can happen. A friend of mine, a very good friend of mine, in fact, actually won Mega Millions. She ended up winning $266 million. She was the sole winner. So, Soledad, it can happen.

O'BRIEN: And she was your friend before she won the money, right?

CARROLL: Now she's even a better friend.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Just checking. The odds are so much worse than I thought they were. Jason carol, thank you. Appreciate the update.

Bridget, what would you do with the money if you won that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My whole family and friends would quit their jobs. We'd do a whole entourage thing.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Would you quit your job?

HOOVER: I would definitely keep working. I'd be so bored.

O'BRIEN: What would you do with $20 million whatever?

SMITH: My wife and I talked about this. We actually had the conversation. We figure out which family members we'd give how much money to. Everyone would get someone. College education and then pay off mortgages and things like that. Buy a house in Vermont.

O'BRIEN: I would just call in. Hey, not coming in today. And, yes, I would quit.

SMITH: Really?

Yes, absolutely. And I would just move to the beach for a long time and then think about getting back to work.

HOOVER: Right, Soledad needs a vacation.

O'BRIEN: That was last week I was on vacation. Yes that's what I would do.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a new movie has gangsters, crime, outlaws, bootlegging, corruption -- all the good things. It's called "Lawless." And it's getting some serious buzz. One of the actors is Dane Dehaan and he is here live to talk to us.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. I'm John Berman. Here is a quick look at some of the "Top Stories" right now.

You knew him and you loved him as a wise-cracking Sweat Hog. Ron Palillo who played Horshack in the 70's sitcom, "Welcome Back Kotter" one of the best. He's died of an apparent heart attack. Palillo was a Shakespearean actor before hitting it big as the goofball on "Kotter." Ron Palillo was 63 years old.

A suspect is in custody this morning for allegedly robbing the Palo Alto home of Steve Jobs. Police say the man took $60,000 worth of gadgets and even Jobs' wallet from the house. The suspect was caught when he tried to connect to the Internet and Apple investigators tracked the devices after that.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's newly-minted running mate, has now supplanted the President as the most talked about politician on Facebook. That's according to CNN Facebook election talk meter. Ryan is getting the most buzz in Washington DC, and in his home state of Wisconsin.

Now get this, "The Price is Right" is asking for guys to come on down. The game show has announced it's looking for its first male model. Ben Smith take notice. CBS says the male model search will air as a five episode web series on "The Price is Right's" official Web site.

O'BRIEN: Oh I think that's really interesting cross platform marketing, right?

BERMAN: I'm just thinking about the showcase showdown. You're thinking as a business tool, I'm thinking if I get within $100, I get both showcases.

O'BRIEN: All right.

Let's talk a little bit about the tenor of the campaign with all of our politicos on the set today. It's been very interesting. I think just a couple of days ago, right? They were talking about a higher level campaign. That finally it would be substance over, you know, mudslinging.

And you know, maybe I'm wrong, but it feels like this campaign -- I mean we say this every time -- this campaign has been the nastiest.

SMITH: You know they have -- they both have really good reasons to attack each other and not talk about substance. Obama does not particularly want to say and stay the course the economy is doing great, judge me on my record. Privately they'll defend it and they'll argue about it they don't really think they can win the argument in public.

And Romney since he nominated Paul Ryan had this huge thing he doesn't want to talk about, which is Paul Ryan's budget. They have decided to embrace Ryan and not embrace the budget and its impossible position. So he would rather complain about unfair tax. And you have a choice about what to talk about. That's what's he's choosing to talk about.

SIEGEL: Which is the most amazing thing. Now I hear the Republicans take on a candidate known for really nothing other than his budget and his specificity in numbers and immediately turn away from it and run away from what he's known for. And theoretically what they brought him on for.

O'BRIEN: I wouldn't say known for nothing other -- I think his budget is certainly is a centerpiece. But I mean he's young, he's incredibly articulate.

BERMAN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: His message as he's been going through the Iowa State Fair, et cetera, has been, listen, I flipped burgers at McDonald's. I'm a regular guy. And I think that could be a very effective message, especially countering Mitt Romney's message, which has a bit of a challenge on the other side of being someone who is very wealthy.

HOOVER: And he -- but everyone heralded with this appointment of Paul Ryan as the VP candidate that finally we have substance to debate. Finally this is going to be an idea. It will be a contrast. And it's amazing the contrast to me when Ben Lebolt comes back and says that Mitt Romney is unhinged, which is like, look it up, it means mentally imbalanced. I mean, we are going strictly with crazy.

SMITH: Not since the last presidential campaign have we had anything like that.

HOOVER: But the last time presidential campaign was the campaign where -- remember Samantha Powers called Hillary Clinton a monster and she had to step away from her (inaudible). This is very different.

O'BRIEN: This was the summer of the double down.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's the summer of the double down.

BERMAN: I do think there's a gutter where both campaigns are comfortable and there's a gutter where they're uncomfortable.

I do not think that the Obama campaign is pleased with Joe Biden yesterday. I do not think they think his comments were helpful. They took away from the President in his three-day bus tour in Iowa and took away from --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Where he say we're going to -- they're going to put you all in chains. He is going to put you all back in chains -- referring to Mitt Romney and Wall Street.

BERMAN: I think they don't want to have to be cleaning up against Joe Biden today, because they would like to be making other attacks on Mitt Romney.

HOOVER: That's right, I think that's right. I think that's right.

O'BRIEN: So the nuance between the gutters is what you're pointing to?

SMITH: Yes. And no.

O'BRIEN: Well, I do think that you know where is the -- where is the line for the inappropriate wording, the line does keep shifting and shifting. That everybody's, you know, does get worse.

SIEGEL: And -- and it will be -- it'll be interesting to see if we can get out of it especially with all the money going into the Super PACs.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to guess no. I'm going to bet money on that. Not a chance.

In case you were wondering, we were hoping to talk to Dane Dehaan. He is running a little bit late, unfortunately. Bummer, because I want to talk about his -- his new movie. He's going to talk to us tomorrow, though.

HOOVER: It's so bad Dane we want to talk about your movie.

O'BRIEN: No, no. No, he's going to come back. He's coming on tomorrow. We're just running out of time this morning.

HOOVER: Ok.

And we want to get up next to "End Point," including "End Point" from our viewers. That's up next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: For our "End Point" this morning, we're going to start with one from a viewer. It's Michael Castellano from New York. He was watching my interview yesterday with the former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu. Pussycat is what I like to call him. He is a senior Romney campaign adviser. And here is what he had to say about our exchange. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL CASTELLANO, VIEWER: I thought he was crass, crude, arrogant, evincing an almost pedantic throwback if you will. I think we should expect more, even those surrogates of presidential candidates.

But I thought you were graceful under his verbal assault, and thanks for trying to keep him honest about statements he purported to be fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Michael Castellano, thank you. You can be on the show anytime you want. Let's put him in a chair like that. Not everybody agreed with him, though.

I got this comment on Facebook from Mark Newsome of Texas. He said this. "Actually, the conversation was so heated the facts never came out. How do we know it's a fact unless we hear how that was decided? I absolutely do want to hear Soledad explain what she meant by the argument being debunked."

Ok. Well, thanks for both of you for sending those to us. And we have done the fact checking. We posted it online if you really want to see us go through the $716 billion number. Go to our blog at CNN.com/startingpoint. Check the argument out for yourself and the numbers out for yourself if you want. Keep the comments coming too. You can send us a quick video, 20 seconds or so, about a point you'd like to make on the show. We're going pick one, include it at the end of the show in our "End Point." Go to our blog at CNN.com/startingpoint if you want to submit a video.

So that brings us right to "End Point" with Bridget and Ben and Margaret and John. In the little time we have left, I'm going to pick Bridget, you want to start? What's your "End Point"?

SIEGEL: Yes. My "End Point", I'm still stuck on Paul Ryan hasn't crunched the numbers for the presidential debate.

O'BRIEN: It's an awkward start for him, the guy who's known for number crunching. It's a problem.

HOOVER: Well, to be fair, I think it was the Romney campaign plan, they simply haven't crunched the numbers. I mean Paul Ryan is certainly capable of crunching any numbers that come his way. That's what he does. That's what he's known for. That's why they picked him. But I think the Romney plan hasn't been that substantiated.

SMITH: They wanted a visionary guy without the vision. That's the tricky thing.

O'BRIEN: Well, they're going to need to get the numbers.

30 seconds left, who's got an "End Point" for me.

SMITH: I mean I have to say I was so struck by Tim Pawlenty on the show. I think people in Boston in Romney's campaign who were watching that saying, you know, that's why we wanted that guy. There was a lot of dissent inside Romney-land around who they picked.

Paul Ryan has turned this campaign into a discussion for a week about his Medicare plan. Tim Pawlenty was just very, very good about just talking about the economy; talking about what the Romney campaign actually wants to talk about.

O'BRIEN: I had money on him being picked. I truly thought he --

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: We did.

O'BRIEN: We did, right?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Now you can invest that money in Powerball.

O'BRIEN: I just lost it altogether, saying I'm going to invest new money in Powerball which is up to $300 and some odd million.

Coming up tomorrow on "STARTING POINT," actor Stephen Baldwin will join us. And they are back on US soil -- the gold medalists, Gabby Douglas and the rest of the Fierce Five, women's gymnastics team Kayla Maroney and Aly Reisman and Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber all joining us right here to talk about their great big win.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Fredericka Whitfield begins right now. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow. Fred.