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Democratic Convention Kicks Off; Interview with Robert Gibbs; Rising Latino Star Gives Keynote; Interview with Congressman Patrick McHenry; Record Month for Pro-Obama Super PAC; Campaigning for the Arts

Aired September 5, 2012 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to have you all with us.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is hail to the mom-in-chief. That would be Michelle Obama, leading the charge on the first night of the Democratic convention, rousing speech. People loved that speech. It was amazing to watch her deliver it as well. Very personal speech.

Also, one of the Democratic Party's rising stars, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivered the keynote address. Also I thought a terrific speech. He is first Latino Democrat ever to do so.

And tonight's closer is the former President Bill Clinton. He's going to place President Obama's name in nomination for a second term, and tell the nation that giving him four more years could recreate his -- meaning Clinton's -- economic success story. If he's able to make that connection -- and that can be a very big if -- but if President Clinton is able to make that connection, he could do a big favor to President Obama on the economy.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And, look, if there's anybody who knows how to make a connection, it is Bill Clinton. But looking at this convention the way it started last night, big picture, it is very clear they are just trying to hit as many of the key Democratic constituencies as they can. The Latinos, the mothers, the moms, the women, so to speak, across the board, they are trying to get out every single possible voter they can, and had a lot of important speakers. But as you said, one of the most important ones was the president's wife.


BASH (voice-over): Who better to convince voters that the Barack Obama they were so excited about four years ago is still that same guy?

MITCHELL OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: When it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.

BASH: By now, most Americans are familiar with the president's biography. Her job was to underscore their shared middle class philosophy.

OBAMA: He believes that when you have worked hard and done well and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

BASH: She called herself the mom in chief, but showed she is also a savvy politician who didn't have to say Mitt Romney's name to get her digs in.

OBAMA: Because for Barack, success isn't about how much money you make. It's about the difference you make in people's lives.

BASH: The evening's other headliner, the 37-year-old mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Julian Castro, the first Latino keynote speaker at the Democratic convention. He told the American dream story of a self-taught Mexican-born grandmother.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO, TX: And I can still remember her every morning, as Joaquin and I walked out the front door to school, making the sign of the cross behind us, saying (SPEAKING SPANISH) -- may God bless you.

BASH: Still in true keynote tradition, he threw the eager Democratic crowd plenty of red meat.

CASTRO: When it comes to letting people love who they love and marry who they want to marry, Mitt Romney says no. When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says --

CROWD: Says no!

CASTRO: Actually, Mitt Romney said yes. And now he says no.

BASH: A series of other speakers also lit up the room, delivering on some very specific tasks. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland seized on Romney's so-called vulture capitalism.

TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: If Mitt was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves.

BASH: Former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel refreshed collective memories about how bad things were four years ago.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO, IL: That first day, I said, Mr. President, which crisis do you want to tackle first? He looked me in the eye with that look he usually reserved just for his chief of staff, Rahm, we were sent here to tackle all of them. Not choose between them.

BASH: Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker stirred many parts of the party's base.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NJ: That no matter who you are, no matter what color or creed, how you choose to pray, or who you choose to love.


BASH: And one of the speakers, Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, was almost chastising Democrats there.

O'BRIEN: I think he was saying grow a backbone.

BASH: Yes, saying Democrats shouldn't be -- you know, forgive me, Democrats that don't necessarily traditionally stand up for themselves, which I think over this campaign maybe they have been doing more than ever. And that is precisely the message they want to hear.

O'BRIEN: That is critical, right? It's going to be a message in who gets out their constituents. So you have to say, don't just sit there. Grow a backbone and go out and vote. Whether it's the GOP message or the DNC message.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Overall, I mean, it was a spectacular night for Democrats. Probably as a good a night -- I have been to every convention since '84, as good a night they've had, apart from acceptance, as I have ever seen. Each speech had one really powerful image. Mayor Castro, the American dream. It's not a sprint or even a marathon but a relay between generations. A very powerful idea.

Michelle Obama's core idea of the presidency doesn't change character. It reveals character. Also powerful. But, the but here, is the big hole that the president faces coming into this convention is still, what is his agenda to make Americans' lives better in the second term?

O'BRIEN: Details, details.

BROWNSTEIN: This is more about empathy even than results. Even Michelle Obama was talking about he identifies with the middle class. She couldn't go as far as to say he has delivered for the middle class.

O'BRIEN: That's going to be a problem.

All right. Thank you.

We're going to -- I tell you a couple of minutes ago, I'll talk to Robert Gibbs about that very topic. He's a former White House press secretary. He's now an Obama campaign adviser. He'll stop by to chat with us.

First, though, we want to check in with Ashleigh Banfield. She's got a look at some of the other stories making news this morning.

Hey, Ashleigh. Good morning.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, friend. Nice to see you.

We have some other politics to tell you about. Really strange. A political victory speech that turned deadly. In fact, it was interrupted by gunfire in Canada. This is Quebec's premiere elect Pauline Marois. She was rushed off the stage when someone opened fire.

She wasn't hurt, but one person was killed and another person is critically injured as well, as the suspect itself was dragged to a police cruiser, he was shouting in French, the English are waking up. Apparently, there's reference to his longstanding in Canada between the French and English communities in that country.

The FBI is denying claims by a hackers group that they accessed the personal information of millions of Apple users from a government computer, including President Obama's iPad. The group is called Anti- sec. It posted online what it claims are the IDs of more than a million iPhones and iPads. The hackers say in all 12 million Apple IDs were obtained from FB agents' laptops.

To Louisiana now, where officials have been forced to close 12 miles of beaches there all because of tar balls and oil washing up onshore in the wake of hurricane Isaac. BP is claiming this is far too early to tell if the oil came from the 2010 deep horizon accident, but it's there and state officials are getting a handle on something else too.

The extent of the damage from Isaac, 10 parishes suffered serious flooding with over 13,000 homes damaged. But good news here, electricity has now been restored to all but 38,000 customers. Of course, good news if you're not one of those 38,000.

Pay no attention to the man in the striped pajamas. That's kind of what the NFL is hoping as they kick off the season tonight with replacement refs. All this as the New York Giants play host to the Dallas Cowboys. Those replacements have been heavily criticized during the preseason mostly because they not so seasoned. And all of this as contract talks between regular officials are dead in the water, really stalled.

Some of the players are saying that having the replacements who don't recognize the medical condition of head injuries during the preseason games could put them at medical risk.

All right. Amazing video moment. Watch. This is unbelievable.

Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, this boat hitting a huge wave, bang, bang, passing another boat and the impact so intense they are thrown violently around in this boat. And, yes, if you were wondering whether what you're seeing led to some injuries, it did. The driver and six passengers were all injured in this Friday accident. Five of them had to go to the hospital.

They are saying that the injuries were described as minor to moderate. But what video. It's just remarkable. When you see that, you wonder --

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. That girl -- that girl in the pink bikini, she had to have broken her nose. I see her face slam into the boat at least three times.

BANFIELD: And the green bikini on the left gets a wave that could have led to what is called dry water drowning. It is really violent.

O'BRIEN: That's hard to watch.

BANFIELD: It really speaks to the speed of boating. There are a lot of boaters who don't think that the speed necessarily can cause something like that. And you hit one wake, and no one is wearing seat belts in a boat, and that's what can happen. It's dangerous.

O'BRIEN: Glad they are all OK.

All right. Ashleigh, thank you.

Time to talk to Robert Gibbs. He's a senior adviser to the Obama campaign, who's also the former White House press secretary under President Obama.

Nice to have you with us this morning.


O'BRIEN: Slamming your head into the side of the boat? Really?

GIBBS: Violent boating accident, and here's Robert Gibbs.

O'BRIEN: It seems like the first day of the DNC is going pretty well.

GIBBS: Well, look, I think, honestly, I think we had a terrific night last night. Throughout the spectrum, a whole host of speakers, but obviously, Mayor Castro and the first lady did a remarkably great job I think in setting the tone, talking about the president.

O'BRIEN: Julian Castro's point was sort of the refrain about Romney says no. The first lady, I thought her messaging was, we get people who struggle. And certainly Rahm Emanuel, who basically said there is still hope and change. That was his messaging.

So what does President Clinton have to say to continue that messaging?

GIBBS: Well, I think the unique position that President Clinton brings to the stage tonight is as a president who came in in challenging economic times at a point in which the stewardship and leadership of our economy had been neglected. And, you know, in 1992 and 1993, we needed to reinvest in research and innovation and education and really give the middle class a genuine sense of security in this country.

And I think that's the same situation that President Obama has come into, and I think you'll hear a very analogous situation, and I think President Clinton obviously a unique perspective as a former president and somebody who lived through the economic times that he did. I think he's going to be -- I think he's going to be terrific.

O'BRIEN: Reince Priebus was on the show, and he basically said, we welcomed seeing president Clinton, because what it's going to do is provide a stark contrast to what a President Obama is not and has not done. I will play a little bit of what he told me earlier in the week.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I think Bill Clinton is actually going to help us because he's going to illustrate to the American people that Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton.


O'BRIEN: Does he have a point?

GIBBS: No. I mean, certainly Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. But the theory of the case that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had were everybody needs to pay their fair share, and we need to invest in middle class security.

Look, here's the bad news for Chairman Priebus, is he is selling a series of tired ideas and tired slogans, right? Let's give more tax cuts to the rich. Let's let Wall Street write the rules.

We know it didn't work for eight years. We know our economy was bad. We know at the end, our economy was wrecked. But let's try it one more time and see if the outcome is different.

I think the American people are smart enough to understand that the outcome frankly is not going to be different.

O'BRIEN: So let me bring in our congressman who is shaking his head so violently it might snap off.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: To suggest that --


GIBBS: That's really disappointing.

CHAFFETZ: Wall Street write the rules is ridiculous. There's more systemic risk now with what President Obama has done. We have less big players out there. That is not fair to categorize it like that at all.

GIBBS: Can I ask a question? Do you want to repeal Dodd-Frank?

CHAFFETZ: Absolutely, I do. There needs to be --

BROWNSTEIN: And Sarbanes-Oxley.

GIBBS: And Sarbanes-Oxley.

And understand that the two major pieces of legislation that put regulators back in charge of overseeing big banks are those two pieces of legislation. So you may not agree -- you may not like the slogan that I gave to you which is Wall Street gets to write the rules. But the practical impact of removing both of those pieces of legislation is to do exactly that.

CHAFFETZ: I totally disagree. Creating the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, giving it a budget that's bigger than the Securities and Exchange Commission, did not solve the problem. Fundamentally when you look at it in analysis, it's hard to do here in television, is more systemic risk today than in the past. That did not solve the problem.

And I would argue that Bill Clinton -- or Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. And that is one of the fundamental changes. When we got to that midterm election, America, across the country, said we do not like the direction of this country. We elected like a record number of Republicans.

And you still don't have Barack Obama reaching out trying to work with people. That is the fundamental difference between what he campaigned on and the reality today. He does not work across the aisle.

BASH: Speaking of Barack Obama and bill Clinton, I, Soledad, just cannot help but sit here next to Robert Gibbs thinking about what it must be like to be the guy who ran such a tough campaign against the Clintons four years ago, and all of a sudden, relying on him big time.

GIBBS: But this is sort of "Alice in Wonderland" story. We got over that a long, long time ago.

BASH: But you lived it and breathed it.

GIBBS: Oh, sure. And you would not have expected me to work any less hard than I did or Bill Clinton to work any less hard than he did.

Let me finish this point. But, you know, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton spoke in 2008. Bill Clinton did a big piece of business for us four years ago at this convention. He's going to play an even bigger role now. And Hillary Clinton has been as good a secretary of state as we have ever had.

BROWNSTEIN: Leaving aside the race, in 2008, then candidate Obama said his goal was to be a transformational president like Ronald Reagan, not like Bill Clinton, who he said did not have the same impact on the direction of the country. Has he changed retrospectively his view about the impact of the Clinton presidency on America?

GIBBS: I haven't talked to him specifically about the Clinton presidency in a long time. Again, look, I don't doubt there's a lot of things that were said in the middle of the primaries because, you know, at that point, the sticker on my lapel said Obama and the sticker on President Clinton's lapel said Hillary Clinton. BROWNSTEIN: It's not a partisan chat. It was a view that this too tactical, too incremental, too triangulating, that he wanted to change America more fundamentally than he thought Clinton set out to do. And, it was a way of kind of saying I'm going to be a bigger president than he was or that Hillary Clinton would be.

GIBBS: Again, I haven't talked to him -- that was, I think, an editorial board he did in Reno, Nevada in January of 2008. I have not talked to him about that in a long time.

BASH: But who can remember?

GIBBS: No. I have a decent memory.


GIBBS: But, no -- look, I think the challenges that Barack Obama had the very first day and the challenges, quite frankly, that had been neglected for eight years, needed to be addressed and needed to be addressed in a way that transformed the country and moved it to a different place.

And, look, this race is about whether or not we're going to stay on that path moving forward or we're going to go back to what we tried for eight years that never worked.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to hear that speech tonight, because we've all been sort of guessing. I know he makes his revisions to it up to the very last second, practically.

GIBBS: You know, I didn't work for the Clinton administration, but I do remember hearing all of those great stories, and I can imagine the panic of people like me sitting in the back of the limousine as he has a marker like marking it up as we go.

BROWNSTEIN: When the speech didn't come up on the teleprompter and he spoke for 20 minutes off the top of his head.


GIBBS: Which is -- which I will say this. Again, we've seen all this stuff about like, oh, aren't you so worried about what he's going to say? We invited him. We think he's going to be a fabulous spokesperson for Barack Obama. And quite frankly, if the teleprompter doesn't work and he goes for 40 minutes all by himself, it's going to be a terrific speech.

O'BRIEN: Looking forward to it. Robert Gibbs, it's nice to have you with us this morning.

GIBBS: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

CNN's primetime coverage of the Democratic National Convention will kick off this evening at 7:00 p.m. eastern with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper and the CNN political team. At 10:00 p.m., former president, Bill Clinton, will address the delegates. At midnight, Piers Morgan will wrap it all up from right here at the CNN Grill.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, no enthusiasm gap here. New rising stars of the Democratic Party, Julian and Joaquin Castro, will join us. They were both (INAUDIBLE) to speak at the DNC. Who are these guys? You'll meet the political stars of the future coming up next. You're watching STARTING POINT live at the Grill. Hey, guys.



MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO: Mitt Romney quite simply doesn't get it. A few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave students there a little entrepreneurial advice. Start a business, he said. But how? Borrow money, if you have to, from your parents, he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that?


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live this morning from Charlotte, North Carolina. We are at the Democratic National Convention. The man you just heard is San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro. He's a rising star in the Democratic Party. He gave last night's keynote address, the first Latino to do so.

And his speech hit Mitt Romney as hard as a man of privilege who doesn't understand the struggles of average Americans. He was introduced by his identical twin brother, Texas state representative and U.S. Congressional candidate, Joaquin Castro. It's nice to have you both with us. I should point out to everybody Julian is next to me. Joaquin is a little further from me.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: It's the wedding ring.

O'BRIEN: That's right. You're married. You're still searching for the perfect person. I was surprised that this is the first time -- you're the first Latino to be the keynote at the DNC. That was stunning to me.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Yes, a little bit surprising. I was honored to do it. Excited to do it. I wanted to make sure that I delivered a good message and much more relieved now that it's over.

O'BRIEN: You looked very confident and very comfortable. Was it fun or were you nervous going into it?

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Going into it, of course, I was a little bit nervous. But, you know, once you get up there, sort of the atmosphere takes over. And, you know, it helped that my daughter gave me an assist toward the end of the speech.

O'BRIEN: She's very TV ready. We have a clip of your daughter. Every time the cameras go to her, she'd flip her hair. Like, oh, at three.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: She's been watching a lot of Disney princess clips.

O'BRIEN: There she is. Flipping her hair.


MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Yes. That's right.

O'BRIEN: What do you think the -- how important is it that a Latino address the delegates in sort of a highly publicized and very, you know, big platform in a keynote address? What's the impact of that?

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: It's significant, because there's no question that the Latino community is absolutely important to the election. And more importantly than that, the destiny of the Latino community is interwoven with the destiny of the United States. As you know, it's the fastest-growing community. It's a young community.

When we think about the talent and the brain power that we need to keep America competitive in the 21st century global economy, the Latino community is a great reservoir for that. So, my keynote speech, I think, was one more signifier of how significant and important the Latino community is to the future of the United States.

O'BRIEN: But Joaquin and I have had conversations about this in the past and did some stories together. And you know, yes, the fastest growing demographic, but actually, voter wise, nine percent of the electorate. High, high, unemployment numbers in the Latino community.

JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) CANDIDATE FOR U.S. CONGRESS IN TEXAS: You have -- you know, you also have the Latinos, a younger population overall, at least, by a few years on average. Also, you have a lot of folks who, you know, are legal residents, for example. Some that aren't citizens.

And so, that tends to knock down the participation numbers. But what we have seen over the years is an increase in Latino participation.

O'BRIEN: But is it a tough message when you're looking at high unemployment numbers, just say and stick it out with this president for four more years? You, the group, who along with African-Americas, have really been decimated by this economy?

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: I don't think it is a tough message for President Obama, because when they look at the progress that has been made, the Latino unemployment rate has dropped by about two percent under this president's watch. The -- you know, education, more than 150,000 Latinos now are able to get Pell Grants because of investments that the president pushed.

Nine million Latinos are going to be able to avail themselves of good healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. For many Latinos, the emergency room literally is their primary care physician. So, that's a huge deal. On immigration policy, that's been talked about tremendously.

But the president is the only one in Washington that's trying to do anything positive with his administrative decision on the dreamers and prioritizing deportations for criminals and then on tax policy. You have Mitt Romney whose tax policy is aimed at helping folks who make over a million dollars, whereas the president --

O'BRIEN: This is kind of your speech in a nutshell from last night. I get where you're going on this. Is it the competing Latinos? I mean, it was Sen. Marco Rubio for the RNC and you're the keynoter at the DNC.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Yes, you know, folks have asked me about that. And I celebrate, you know, the folks, the personalities, that they have on that side. I wish all of them well. The problem for the Republicans and the reason that Latinos are showing up in polls at 70 to 25 for President Obama is not the personalities.

It's the substance of the policies on all of those things, healthcare, immigration, tax policy, the economy.

O'BRIEN: If you look at the poll numbers, you got a bump out of Latinos after the RNC. We can throw that up on the screen there. The president before the RNC was at 65 percent of Latinos said he was their choice, down one, now it's 64 percent. Before the RNC for Mitt Romney, 26 percent, grew by four points to 30 percent.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: John McCain got 38 percent. Yes. So, he's still way underway --

O'BRIEN: -- you're laughing, so you think that's laughable?

JOAQUIN CASTRO: I mean, I think some of it was exposure, because a lot of people still didn't know, including a lot of Latinos, who Mitt Romney is. But also, because they put their best face forward at that convention and didn't talk about a lot of the very extreme policies that many in the Republican Party are taking towards the Latino community.

O'BRIEN: Well, gentlemen, Julian Castro, Joaquin Castro, nice to see you both.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Great to be here.

O'BRIEN: Is it fun to be rising star? Every time people introduce you as rising star at some point.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: I'll let him have it.

O'BRIEN: Someone was telling yesterday, they think seriously you could be governor of the state of Texas.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: I want to be just mayor of San Antonio. O'BRIEN: Now, you're sounding like someone who's running for governor. That's what they always tell me. Oh, Soledad, I love the job I have.


O'BRIEN: We'll see about that. We'll see about that in a little while. Nice to have you, gentlemen. Appreciate it. Congratulations on your speech last night.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for being with us.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, two parties, two contrasting visions. This morning the GOP firing back at Democrats. Coming up, we're going to talk with Utah congressman, Jason Chaffetz, and Congressman Patrick McHenry. They'll join us live to give us the push back on the DNC message last night. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Much more ahead here on STARTING POINT live from the CNN grill in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Democrats ridiculed Republican Mitt Romney as a millionaire candidate who "doesn't get it." That's a quote. Republicans ready to fire back this morning. We'll talk to Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He's been joining us all morning. Also, Congressman Patrick McHenry, Republican as well.

And all about the money, we'll talk to Bill Burton, former Obama White House deputy press secretary who now heads a big super PAC. And it's not just all politics. Well, kind of it is, we'll tell you why actor and comedian John Leguizamo is making his rounds at the DNC.

Chris Christie visits Jimmy Fallon and sings. Here's how he sounded.





O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're coming to you live this morning Charlotte at the CNN grill. Of course we're covering the Democratic National Convention. Tonight, President Clinton will give a very highly anticipated speech. He will formally put President Obama's name into nomination. Last night, several speakers went after Mitt Romney's record, saying, quote, he doesn't get it. It was part of the DNC theme. And Republicans now ready to defend their candidate. Two of them with us this morning, Congressman Jason Chaffetz has been joining us all morning, which he often does, which we appreciate. Congressman Patrick McHenry is here as well, Republican representative from North Carolina.

Let's talk a little bit about the speeches last night. Where do you see vulnerabilities from the DNC? Obviously, that's what you're looking at. I know this rapid response team from the GOP is to exploit anything you see that has gone awry. And where do you see problems for the GOP in those speeches last night?

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY, (R) NORTH CAROLINA: Certainly, you heard no mention of the economy being strengthened under President Obama. Or a record of achievement in terms of getting people back to work. And I think that's their greatest weakness. When you go back home, and you talk to folks just a few miles away from where we are in my district, they're not talking about the issues that were brought up last night. They are talking about whether or not they have a job, whether or not they can keep their small, up and running and whether or not they can start a small business.

One vulnerability obviously for us is that, you know, everyone loves the first lady. She's a fantastic speaker. I think -- but I think the combination of her and Ann Romney, I think that's a very worthy choice set for first ladies. But I think the first lady did a very fine job with her speech last night.

O'BRIEN: You heard the number, though, 4.5 million jobs. That was repeated and repeated. We spoke to Rahm Emanuel about it earlier, which as you know it's jobs that were created. Of course, there are 300,000 jobs short of where they started when President Obama came into office. But they were talking about job creation in that number.

CHAFFETZ: But last night, for six hours worth of speeches, nobody overtly said you are better off than you were four years ago. And when they came out of the blocks on Sunday, three of their top people all bungled that question and became the driving story here. Of course they are going to play to their base and they are going to get rousing applause in the bubble of that arena. But the reality is you have 23 Americans either unemployed or underemployed. Household income is down $4,000 a year.

O'BRIEN: But the economy was in a free-fall four years ago, right? I remember that because I would go to the gym and sometimes watch CNBC. And I literally would want to walk around and turn of all the TVs, it was so depressing to watch the financial markets collapse in front of your eyes.

CHAFFETZ: There is no doubt it was a very --

O'BRIEN: So technically, you're better off. The economy is no longer in a freefall.

CHAFFETZ: No, no. MCHENRY: I love the fact you just said this. I want to hear one speaker -- none of them said it last night, that you're better off now than you were four years ago. Answer this question.

LIZZA: Can I ask you, given your district, you know, the forces that allowed Obama to win North Carolina were pretty typical of what allowed him to win a number of previously Republican states like Colorado and Virginia. One was the growing minority population, but also was growing discontent. What is different this time? They are banking heavily on social issues like contraception, gay marriage, to hold those voters. Is Obama in position to hold the suburban voters he won in North Carolina last night?

MCHENRY: That's why they are driving so hard on these social issues. But if you look at a single working woman, if you look at a working mother, they are worse off than they were four years ago. They have a harder time getting employment, making ends meet, even purchasing health care, which the president is now touting. It's nice to see him coming around defending a policy that's pretty tough to defend.

If you look at the suburbs of Charlotte, you have a great example of one of my colleagues, one of our colleagues in the house, Larry Kissell. His district starts 10 miles from where we sit right here. He refused to come to the convention. He is one of the host congressmen. Larry Kissell is a vulnerable member of Congress because of the suburban areas around charlotte, folks that have simply rejected the president's policies. Personally like him but don't like the policies and don't like his record.

LIZZA: What are those social issues a barrier for Mitt Romney to convert voters who might be dissatisfied with the economy but tend to move more to the left on some of those questions?

MCHENRY: Obviously, ask Bill Burton. They are driving very hard on these issues. As a way to moor people back to their party. The economic achievement is not there. Not even on health care, getting people back to work, making sure that families can make ends meet.

CHAFFETZ: But the other thing I would add is that the very premise of the Obama candidacy was that it was about hope and change. We weren't red or blue states. We were the United States. That was inspirational even to guys like me. But there is nothing you can point to to look at President Obama and say, oh, my goodness, he did bridge places that were difficult. And what Bill Clinton did that a President Obama has never done is Bill Clinton learned his lesson after two years and made some alterations, worked with Republicans, and they actually made some progress.

LIZZA: Did he not make an alteration to make a deal with John Boehner that ultimately collapsed because Boehner could not sell it to his caucus?


(CROSSTALK) MCHENRY: Of course you do. But you can see this president walked away from any deal in order to fix our budget problems. But the real issue --

O'BRIEN: But some would say obstructionist Republicans. I have heard that a lot on my show.

We have to take a break. When we come back, we'll talk to Bill Burton and continue this conversation.

Still ahead this morning, not just politicians but Hollywood stars that we have been chatting with, including John Leguizamo who will stop by the grill to chat with us as well. That's straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Super PAC money changing this election in ways we've never seen it before. An Obama super PAC raised $10 million in the month of August, their biggest haul to date since they formed back in spring of 2011. I want to tell the people behind me to be quiet. I can't even hear myself think.


O'BRIEN: Bill Burton is the senior strategist for Priorities USA. He was formerly the deputy press secretary for Obama administration. Nice to have you on the panel.


O'BRIEN: Let's talk money. When you actually compare dollars, the Romney campaign is killing the Obama campaign by a lot.

BURTON: There's no doubt the Romney campaign is raising a great deal of money. Now if you look at how Republicans raise money, there is no doubt that they are going to be able to have a huge financial advantage. You know if you go to the -- if you go to Wall Street, if you go to the oil companies, and those people who work in those places, they know that a President Romney would deregulate those industries and they would be able to make a lot more money at the expense of the middle class. So I think that they have a lot more avenues to raise money because they know exactly what they're going to get from a Romney administration.

On the Democratic side, you know I think the Democrats are really starting to wake up and see there's a real threat from Karl Rove, from the Koch Brothers and from people who are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to try to have a huge impact on this election to drive a very right-wing ideology.

O'BRIEN: So if you're being out -- go ahead.

BASH: I was just going to say, but obviously, you all formed (ph) to try to compete with the Karl Roves of the world. And it's been difficult and challenging.

BURTON: Well, we formed to answer what they were doing. And we knew that we would never be able to match them dollar for dollar, but we -- we knew that if we spent our money efficiently and wisely, strategically in the places where we needed to, we could have a difference.

So this summer we spent $20 million just talking about Mitt Romney's business experience in swing states around the country. And there's no doubt from any polls both independent and private that Mitt Romney's greatest -- what he thought would be his greatest asset has turned into a liability.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You worked on this in '08 and you are kind of watching it from the -- from the outside this time. The conventions combined between the parties, the press, and the campaigns, the cities, probably cost over $200 million at this point.

As best we can tell, Mitt Romney's bump was about one point maybe small movements on favorable, unfavorable. If the old goal of the convention was to nominate, the new goal was to kind of introduce the candidate. Is the new goal now obsolete as well?

BURTON: Well, I -- you know, I'm -- unlike a lot of folks I actually think that the conventions are very important things. Because there are so few places where voters can go to get long form information about what the parties stand for, where the candidates are, where they want to take the country, and the conventions offer that.

So I think that even though you may not get a huge bounce, and President Obama remember in 2008 only got a bounce of about 1.5 percent, largely because Sarah Palin was picked. Again but I still think that it's an important -- it's an important thing to do so that voters have a really clear sense of who the candidates are.

O'BRIEN: So if the Romney campaign says, ok, the messaging on their behalf was -- was a slow response and now they are up or $127 million to your Super PAC $35 million, does more money mean a sure victory?

BURTON: Well, more money means that they have a lot more cash to spend in these targeted states. But keep in mind that even though Republicans are going to out-raise Democrats, they need a lot more money because having an impact on what voters think about someone like President Obama who's lived in their living rooms for the last six years basically on their TVs costs a lot of money.

Whereas for Mitt Romney, he's really a blank slate. So talking about Mitt Romney, helping to educate people about his record, his background, what it would mean for the American people, is actually much less expensive proposition.

BROWNSTEIN: Is this election fundamentally about convincing a small slice of voters who are disappointed in President Obama, his approval rating is under 50, that they would like Mitt Romney even less? Is that ultimately the Democratic challenge in this election?

BURTON: I think it is a challenge because we're -- we are in a tough economic time. The President inherited what was, you know, one of the toughest economic situations that any president has inherited since the Great Depression. And so talking to voters about the progress that we've made, and what progress we can make in the next four years and how that contrasts with where Mitt Romney would take the country, is the challenge that Democrats have. And that's -- that's what we've undertaken and need to accomplish.

O'BRIEN: Bill Burton, it's nice to have you joining us this morning. We certainly appreciate it.

BURTON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, Emmy-award winning actor and comedian, John Leguizamo is going to join us. Lending a little Hollywood star power to the DNC. We'll chat with him up next.

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



JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": This isn't good, you guys. There are reports that nine of the hotels being used for politicians at the Democratic National Convention have bed bugs. Yes. When asked what it's like dealing with thousands of ruthless blood suckers, the bed bugs were like, "Yes it's ok. We'll deal with it."


O'BRIEN: Well, they may not have Clint Eastwood on their side, but Democrats have star power here in Charlotte this week. It includes members of the Creative Coalition a non-profit that advocates funding for the arts. Actor John Leguizamo is in town as part of an A-list delegation of stars from that coalition. It's nice to have you with us.

So what exactly is your role? What are you doing?

JOHN LEGUIZAMO, ACTOR: Well, we're here to -- you know, because the programs that first get cut are the arts. It's always the first to go. And the arts is actually what keeps us cutting edge against China and India because all the technologists say we want creative thinkers. Where do they come from, they come from the arts. And it's been proven that for every $1 spent, you get $7 back tax that's taxable from the arts.

Like the -- the iPod was created for what, for music. The second healthiest industry in this country is entertainment -- movies, books, music.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: So is it a bipartisan measure? Are you here to talk to both sides of the aisle?

LEGUIZAMO: Yes. We went to the RNC and now we are at the DNC. You know it obviously is whoever is in office is who we want to get their ear.

O'BRIEN: Did you go and spend time on the floor and watch the speeches?

LEGUIZAMO: I watched the whole convention.


LEGUIZAMO: I was -- it was electrifying. You know, I was moved to tears many times of the personal testimonies. I just feel like they hit every point with concrete personal stories. I mean they made it -- they made it real. I mean, they weren't just, you know, speeches and they weren't just ideas. They were actual experiences of how this country has changed and moved forward.

O'BRIEN: I was surprised that the -- maybe Ron you can explain this. I was surprised that this is the first time at the DNC that a Latino did the keynote. I actually --

LEGUIZAMO: Yes. That was great. Julian Castro --

O'BRIEN: Yes they were talking to us a little while ago.

LEGUIZAMO: Yes, he's going to be our president. I mean, that was how you -- that's how you felt tonight. Being a Latin man, you're just like, wow, we've come a long way and we're going to have our Obama, a Latin Obama paradox.

BROWSTEIN: The paradox is that obviously Democrats win about two-thirds or more of Hispanic votes, but they've had trouble elevating people through the statewide positions that would give them the platform. In some ways it's easier for Latino Republicans to win because it's easier for them to attract white votes, frankly.

So you know there is a mismatch. I mean, Castro is clearly a meteor and a rising star, but he's the Mayor of San Antonio. You're talking about Marco Rubio who's a senator. Susana Martinez, as governor. Probably another senator in Texas and there is a mismatch. Republicans have done a better job of elevating their Latino talent into statewide office.

CHAFFETZ: Because we have a better message. That's why. We're not ceding any ground to the Democrats. So sometime we'll talk about -- you'll find out like Susana Martinez, you're really -- you're really a Republican.

LEGUIZAMO: No, no, no. Latin people for Republicans is like roaches for Raid. It doesn't make sense, man. You're not for us. You're not for my values. We're a working class people mostly and the blue collar. We're your cops. We're your firemen. We're your carpenters. And the things we need to protect our unions, We need to protect our Medicare. We need to protect the working class person.

And the Obamacare and --

CHAFFETZ: You haven't said anything that when I talk you through it that I can't tell you that you will find it's a better, smarter way.

LEGUIZAMO: Congressman, I doubt it.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I ask you a question? The Republican platform says that any state that provides in-state tuition to the children of illegal aliens should be denied any federal education money for anything. Which means every Anglo kid in Texas would not be able to get a Pell Grant. Do you agree with that platform?

CHAFFETZ: What we have to do is we have to fix legal immigration. And the reality --


CHAFFETZ: I have to read the whole statement. And we'll go through it in detail.

BROWNSTEIN: Ok. Take a look.

CHAFFETZ: I will. But we have to fix legal immigration.

O'BRIEN: He's back later this week. We can follow up on that question with you.

LEGUIZAMO: And Republicans always say that Hollywood is for them. But they are the ones that elect always an actor, they elected Reagan. They elected Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood. Democrats, we never elect an actor. We'd never put artists in office.

O'BRIEN: That could change one day, John.

LEGUIZAMO: No. We want people who are professionals. We don't need businessmen running the country. We need people, who are visionaries, running the country.

O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you come talk to us.

LEGUIZAMO: Pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Great to see you.

LEGUIZAMO: Pleasure, man.

O'BRIEN: All right. We have to take a break. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Time for "End Point". We're going to give it to Ron Brownstein today to wrap it up for us. BROWNSTEIN: Look, the first night of the Democratic convention was clearly very powerful but it focused on empathy and aspiration. The big missing piece that's still out there is the one that was true before we arrived here. What is the plan to deliver on those goals? That's something the President is going to have to answer himself on Thursday night.

O'BRIEN: Do you think he has to wait until Thursday night? Or is it something that Bill Clinton is going to tee up tonight Wednesday when he gets to speak?

BROWNSTEIN: I think Bill Clinton can provide direction. That's what we heard from Mayor Castro and from the First Lady, direction, goal, empathy. But ultimately I think he's the one who has to provide people more of a plan for how he would make their life better if they give him a second term.

O'BRIEN: All right. Congressman, we'll have you back. Are you back tomorrow with us?

CHAFFETZ: I don't know if I'm here tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: Make it Friday.

CHAFFETZ: I'll be back --

O'BRIEN: Please say you'll be back. We like you.

Coming up tomorrow on "STARTING POINT," President Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter will be our guest. Also we'll be talking to Democratic Party leader and senate majority whip Dick Durbin. New York Senator Chuck Schumer is going to be talking to us. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. And Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas.


O'BRIEN: That's the only one you say ooh about? Will.I.Am. He's going to be talking to us --


O'BRIEN: That is it for us. Let's get right to "CNN NEWSROOM". We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.