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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Romney's 47 Percent; Wind Whipped by Northeast Storm; Controversial Cartoon in France; Chicago Teachers Back To School Today

Aired September 19, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Comments on tape and now clarified. Mitt Romney tries to turn his thoughts from 47 percent from a gaffe to a gain.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wind-whipped and rain-soaked. Severe weather rips to the Northeast. Thousands are waking up without power this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And kids in Chicago waking up to catch the bus. Back to school as teachers end their strike.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. We are happy you are with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We're going to begin with the aftershocks from Mitt Romney's hidden camera comments at that fund-raiser. He said nearly half the Americans see themselves as victims, who believe they are entitled to government assistance and it's not his job to worry about those people.

President Obama released his first response overnight in an appearance with David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I have learned as president is you represent the entire country. And when I meet with Republicans as I'm traveling around the country, they are hard-working family people who care deeply about this country and my expectation is that if you want to be president, you got to work for everybody, not just for some.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now Romney for his part is not apologizing for what he said, just how he said it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say, gosh, this provision of that Mitt keeps talking about, lowering income taxes, that's not going to be really attractive to them. And those that are dependent upon government and those that think government's job is to redistribute, I'm not going to get them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And the damage control continues this morning in addition to "USA Today", Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed in which he seemed to try to clarify his comments more on dependency, saying, "The dreamers and the entrepreneurs, not the government, built this economy and they can once again make it strong. My course," he says, "for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom. Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty."

CNN political reporter Peter Hamby is live at our Washington bureau this morning.

And, Peter, the Romney team is scrambling to move past this controversy using all their weapons, including opposition research and the Drudge Report. The newly uncovered video, actually it's audio of President Obama taken back in 1998, let's listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: This is 14 years ago, a long time ago, Peter. So how is the Romney team using this to their advantage?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It sounds like four years ago when Barack Obama kind of got in a fight with Joe the plumber out in Ohio about spreading the wealth around. Romney mentioned this phrase, redistribution in the FOX interview you played. He mentioned it at a couple fund-raisers, basically trying to reframe this controversy as a fight between two fundamentally different views of government. One, like you've mentioned, what that op-ed of dreamers and strivers versus, you know, a government sort of centric economy.

This is what Romney said about this at a fund-raiser last night in Dallas, John.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: This idea that the President has of redistributing, I know there are some people in our country who want to have a government take from some to give to the others. I would like to be the others on the other receiving end of that and feel like the redirection model makes sense. The President some years ago said he favors redistribution. I don't. I believe instead the role of government is to help those who need help. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBY: You're going to hear this from testimony Romney campaign all day today you can be assured, but the problem here, John, this was taken -- this audio of Obama was 1998 versus video of Mitt Romney from just four months during this actual presidential campaign. So, that makes it a tougher argument for him.

BERMAN: Obviously, with the redistribution comments, Romney is getting us to look over here instead of at his fund-raising comments, the ones in May and the comments about the 47 percent. There seems to be a split of opinion among conservatives about whether that comment, the 47 percent comment, are a plus or a negative for Mitt Romney.

HAMBY: Yes. It's the same split the GOP has been dealing with since 1964 to be honest. You've got the sort of Beltway elites very critical of the grassroots who like Romney's blunt language. This is what Peggy Noonan and the "Wall Street Journal" representing the former wing of that GOP, that sort of Beltway-centric wing of the party.

She wrote, this idea that the President has I'm sorry, excuse me. I'm sorry, wrong time.

Peggy Noonan wrote, "It's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It's always been too small for the moment.

All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus who is at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet, he chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. Mitt, this isn't working."

You know, tough words from the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page.

The thing about this is the Romney campaign really cares what the sort of Beltway elites think about their campaign, as much as they say they don't. These sort of things get under their skin. Bill Kristol called them "arrogant" and "dismissive" yesterday.

But, you know, speaking again about the grassroots of the party, take a listen what Rush Limbaugh said about this controversy yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: This could have been, could be, the opportunity for Romney and for that campaign to finally take the gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism and start explaining liberty to people, what it means, and explain that they don't have to be in that 47 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBY: I love watching the video of Rush. He's always so animated.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: His arm must have been sore after a while. He's moving that arm so much.

Peter, for polling addicts like you and me, there was a huge trove of information that's come out in the last 12 hours, including a new national poll from NBC and the "Wall Street Journal" showing the President with a lead there. And also some key polling in swing states.

HAMBY: Yes, these are the polls we really like, the detailed swing state numbers. The CBS News/"New York Times"/Quinnipiac have a three- state poll out today -- Wisconsin, Virginia and Colorado, three of the states that are going to decide this election. Wisconsin sort of the newcomer to this camp.

Obama leads in all three -- by six points in Wisconsin, six points in Virginia and just a point in Colorado. That's essentially a tie.

What's interesting here is that to Obama holds leads pretty much across the board in every category, including foreign policy and national security. This poll was taken sort of amid the unfolding unrest in the Middle East. Obama's numbers jumped actually in the foreign policy area there.

On the economy where he's basically tied with Romney, he opened up a little bit more of a narrow lead actually, John. It's important to note, though, that these polls were taken just before this Romney video surfaced. So we are still waiting for polling data to see if this story is just kind of a Beltway media story or whether it's really starting to penetrating among actual voters that are going to decide this election, John.

BERMAN: All right. Peter Hamby in our Washington bureau -- yes, taken before the latest 47 percent controversy and Obama still holds a lead in key states like Wisconsin.

Peter, great to see you this morning.

At the bottom of the hour, we're going to talk to Mario Lopez. He's the president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund about Mitt Romney trying to court the Latino vote.

SAMBOLIN: And a line of violent storms making its way up the Eastern Seaboard. In Virginia, high winds and torrential rains made driving extremely dangerous. Thunderstorms kicked up the surf along the shore line in Connecticut as well, and rain flooded a lot of roads. Nearly 30,000 homes and business lost power.

BERMAN: In Maryland, powerful wind gusts toppled trees right over. The damage in some areas was so intensive but no reports of injury.

I want to get right to Rob Marciano in our weather center in Atlanta.

Rob, this weather is bad. I mean, there were trees down all around my house this morning. SAMBOLIN: Yes, you were tip-toeing through power lines. I just want to point that out. This is very dangerous.

BERMAN: Yes, stupid but true -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A lot of the winds, guys. You know, we had severe thunderstorms that came through pretty much the entire East Coast, but a lot of winds came before the thunderstorms. Winds that were blown with the entire system, a very powerful system, had a lot of wind with it as well. This is the rainfall totals were estimated by the radar, anywhere from six, at times eight or nine inches of this stuff in some spots. Across the Catskills, seeing four to six inches of rain rainfall there and some flooding along with the wind.

Right now, the rainfall is heading off the East Coast of Cape Cod. We are still looking at winds that could gust the 40 to 50 miles an hour along eastern Massachusetts and Maine. And that front drapes all the way down across the South, some lightning and certainly some heavy rain across parts of south Florida.

But the front itself is finally beginning to push off into the ocean. With that, will come some cooler weather, much cooler weather, as a matter of fact, and breezy conditions. Cool enough in some cases to have some snowflakes. Not necessarily across the Northeast, but parts of the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes may see some flakes fly just a little bit.

But temperatures are going to fall off the table, from the 80s to the 70s. Even 61 degrees expected tomorrow in Boston, 63 degrees in Portland, Maine. So you will feel chill in the air. But last night was certainly a rough one for just about everybody in the eastern third of the country.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Rob -- Rob Marciano in Atlanta.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Nine minutes past the hour.

We're going to head to Chicago now where public schoolteachers will be back in the classroom this morning after voting overwhelmingly to end their strike. The walkout lasted seven days and gave more than 350,000 students an extended summer vacation. It gave parents an extended headache. The union's rank and file still has to ratify the deal.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Chicago. So, what are the details of this deal?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can take a look yourself, Zoraida. This is a bit of departure from contracts we've seen here in Chicago in the past. This contract is a four-year contract.

Teachers will see a 17.6 percent pay raise over four years. Student test scores will make up 30 percent of teacher evaluations now. Students will now have a longer day both for elementary and high school level. Ten more instructional days added to the school year and laid off teachers will be considered for at least 50 percent of new jobs, in case of school closures that you can apply for the new job.

You know, it's a bit of a departure but how much of a departure depends on which side you're talking to, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Kyung Lah, live in Chicago for us. Both sides are claiming a victory on this one, John.

BERMAN: It's about 11 minutes after the hour right now. And it maybe the last thing this world needs right now after the protest over a film insulting Islam. Coming up: the magazine taking a real risk by publishing something else today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fourteen minutes past the hour. We are very happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is great to see you this morning.

We have a developing story in Paris right now. A weekly magazine known for sharp satire just posted cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The French government is pleading for restraint. This at a time when Muslims around the world are rioting over an amateur anti- Islam movie produced here in America.

I want to get right to Jim Bittermann live in Paris this morning. And, Jim, the last time a magazine did something like this over in France, their Paris office was fire-bombed.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. They have a history of being controversial. These cartoons appeared this morning. And CNN, by the way, has chosen not to show pictures of the cartoons. The cartoons that appear this morning are pretty flagrant. I mean, they basically show Prophet Muhammad doing all sorts of different, rather daring poses, and in different caricatures.

But it's the kind of thing this magazine does. The same issue, this morning's issue also makes fun of rape victims, and also members of the Catholic Church and a number of others. It's known for its ribald humor and people who buy it can expect to see this kind of thing.

That's one of the arguments the publishers say, you don't have to buy this magazine, it's out there, but you don't have to buy it, so you don't have to be offended by it.

We talked to one of the cartoonists this morning and he seemed almost a bit surprise of ther kind of the reaction. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

L"LUZ," CHARLIE HEBDO CARTOONIST: There was a big French paranoia from the media that link us to -- put us into this top of the news just right now. For the moment, it's just -- it's just a big deal built by the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMANN: And you can imagine, John, there's been condemnation by the very large Islamic community here in France as a press conference is going on right now (INAUDIBLE) mosque in Paris, they are condemning what has taken place. As did the head of the Muslim council.

Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our reaction is indignation against this new Islamophobic act, which is the publication by "Charlie Hebdo" of cartoons insulting to the prophet of Islam. It is also a firm condemnation of this new provocation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMAN: And then he said, John, that members of the Islamic community here had asked the government to withdraw the magazine from newsstands before it appeared, that's happened before in this country, but the government decided to let it be published anyway -- Jim.

BERMAN: All right. Jim Bittermann in Paris, thank you very much for that.

SAMBOLIN: It's 17 minutes past the hour.

Let's get you up to date. Christine Romans with this morning' top stories. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, too.

Let's start with Mitt Romney not backing down from comments secretly recorded at a private fund-raiser, comments that have shaken up the presidential race. Romney says his remarks casting Obama supporters as dependent on the government were an honest reflection of his campaign message.

During an appearance last night on the Letterman show, President Obama suggested Romney was writing off a big chunk of the country.

After a 19-month investigation, the Justice Department's inspector general is expected to release a report on the botched Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation some time today. The Republican-led House voted in June to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for withholding documents in the case. Family members of the U.S. border control agent Bryan Terry killed in connection with the gun smuggling operation, they have said they won't have closure until someone is held accountable for Terry's death.

After 25 trips into orbits, spanning two decades, space shuttle Endeavour is ready for its final flight. Endeavour and its NASA career jet scheduled in the Kennedy Space Center in just under two hours. The final destination: Los Angeles, after a stop in Houston. The shuttle's new home: the California Science Center in downtown L.A.

We'll have a live report coming up on that.

SAMBOLIN: We are looking forward to that. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 18 minutes past the hour. Time for early reads, your local news that is making national headlines.

First from "The Seattle Times" here. "Who killed me?" billboards and bus ads are going up all across the city. It's an effort to find suspects in as many as 60 unsolved homicides in Seattle since 2000, eight of them this year alone. The campaign features the names and the photos of the victims beneath the question, who killed me?

Many families who have waited a long time for answers and closure are supporting this idea. The paper says Clear Channel is contributing free billboard spaces worth $60,000 to help in this effort.

BERMAN: All right. Here's an article in "The New York Times" and other papers that people are talking about this morning, and it's about a rare fourth-century religious tax in which Jesus refers to his wife. And the story in a Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus written in Coptic, that's an Egyptian script, which contains a line never before seen in Scriptures said, Jesus said to them, "My wife," dot, dot, dot. It's all it says because it's torn there.

"The Times" says just below the line about Jesus have a wife, he reportedly says, she will be able to be my disciple.

Obviously, this raises a lot of questions about the --

SAMBOLIN: A lot of controversy as well.

For an extended look at all of our top stories, head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart.

BERMAN: And coming up, FedEx, the world economy and how it may have affected your stock portfolio. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. We are minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are up after the Bank of Japan this time announced more stimulus overnight.

SAMBOLIN: And world markets are up across the board. Christine?

ROMANS: So, are we keeping track? We've got the ECB, the European Central Bank, we've got the Fed with its QE3, and now the Bank of Japan plunging another $126 billion into the world markets. What this means is it means stocks, commodities, just about everything is going up. They love it! They don't know what the hang-up is going to look like down the road and years ahead, but just flooding the world with money, so you got stocks up, oil up, gold up and copper up this morning. More stimulus, something the markets like.

This is basically the central banks keeping the car on the road because all the signs are that the world economy is starting to slow. Growth is starting to slow a little bit. FedEx warning on the global economy saying its domestic package deliveries were down something like 5 percent last month. They are worried about Europe, they are worried about China.

So FedEx warning of the global economy saying that global economic growth is stalling here. FedEx is the bellwether. You know, FedEx, it used as goes G.M. so goes the nation. Now, as goes FedEx, so goes the world. So, FedEx is a really important to watch here.

They are concerned about the debt crisis, the fiscal crisis. We've talked about that so much. Companies don't know how to hire or who they are going to have to fire because of the fiscal clip. So obviously they'll be reining back their package delivery cost. The fear factor overall in the markets and the economy, slower trades and high fuel costs.

And, finally, I want to tell you about American Airlines this morning. You know, it's on-time arrivals on Monday were something like 39 percent. That all the pilots were calling in sick. It is going through bankruptcy reorganization. They filed for bankruptcy last fall.

Eleven thousand workers could lose their jobs, at least they have been told they could lose their jobs. In the end, the company thinks maybe 4,400 people will remove their jobs as they emerge from bankruptcy. They are starting to slim down their flight schedule. Maybe 1 percent or 2 percent into October, because of sickouts and because of what's happening in the reorganization. So, if you're flying American, there's a lot going on there right now.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, all right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Terrible news, though, right? More people losing their jobs.

All right. The man who helped expose the Mitt Romney hidden cameras to the world should know a thing or two about presidential politics. He's Jimmy Carter's grandson and he's talking to CNN. That is coming up.

If you are leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop, or your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Mitt Romney and the Latino vote. Will a joke caught on hidden video cost him some vital support?

SAMBOLIN: Your tax dollars and our troops. CNN in-depth on how the two candidates for president would spend it. BERMAN: Waking up in the dark. Power crews hard at work in the northeast after a round of strong, strong storms overnight.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

Mitt Romney, once again, courting the Latino vote today. Tonight, Univision will air a conversation with Romney from its meet-the- candidates forum at the University of Miami. He's also holding a Juntos con Romney rally in Miami later today. That's together with Romney. But it comes two days after a secret recording of Romney was released showing him cracking this joke at a private fundraiser.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My dad, which you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company, but he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican inheritance, I would have a better shot at winning this.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would help to be a Latino.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: I like to bring in Mario Lopez. He's the president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, and he is a Romney supporter as well. Thank you, Mr. Lopez, for joining us this morning. We appreciate your time. Did you think, personally, that that remark was offensive to the Latino community?

MARIO LOPEZ, PRESIDENT, HISPANIC LEADERSHIP FUND: No, I didn't. I think it was a joke. I think he -- if I remember correctly, he made a similar joke back on Univision in January where he joked that it might be easier for him to win the Florida primary if he could convince folks of his Latino heritage, as he said in the video. So, no, I don't think it was offensive at all.

SAMBOLIN: Well, some people say that it actually makes it seem like he is out of touch with that particular community. How do you feel about that?

LOPEZ: Well, I disagree. I think what's much more out of touch is the fact that we have two million more Hispanics in poverty over the last four years under President Obama, that we have a record number of people on food stamps, that we have 23 million people out of work, a lot of whom have given up hope of finding a job.

And frankly, the Hispanic unemployment is much higher than that for the general population.

SAMBOLIN: So, when we look at all of those numbers that you just shared with us, doesn't it seem -- actually, it does seem to a lot of people that maybe he's not focusing on those issues, right? And that, perhaps, those are the things that he should be focusing on and that some of these things that he's saying are not funny, they're not jokes and to stop using that approach.

LOPEZ: Well, I mean, I think that this represents a great opportunity for him to explain exactly why it is that free market policies are better for all income groups. I mean, the free enterprise system has lifted more people out of poverty than any government program ever could in the history of the world, frankly.

So, I think that this represents an opportunity for him to explain that and for him to carry his message not just in the events that you mentioned today in Florida but from here on to Election Day.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's look at a Latino's decisions polls here. It shows the Hispanic voter's choice for president -- I'd like everybody to take a look at this. Obama has 68 percent, Romney with 26 percent. How do you make up those numbers?

LOPEZ: Well, I think that he understands and the campaign understands that Hispanic voters are going to be critical, especially in a handful of swing states. And I think that what you're going to see is you're going to see an increase in him getting the message out. He mentioned the Univision interview today.

I think that that's a great, great start. But, certainly, from here for the next, you know, 48 to 49 days, it's going to be critically important for him to make this a key part of his messaging strategy.

SAMBOLIN: Okay. So, let's go back to the Romney tape. And at 47 percent that are dependent upon government that believe that they are victims, there was this as well that I want you to listen to and we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, nearly 30 percent of Hispanics live in poverty. You pointed that out to us earlier, the highest of any race or ethnicity surveyed and 17 percent of Hispanics receive food stamps. Is this who Romney is referring to as part of those who will never -- he will never convince to take personal responsibility?

LOPEZ: Well, I mean, I think that he's the first one who admitted yesterday that it wasn't the best formulation of his statement, but certainly, this is not a measure of success. I mean, the fact that we have record number of people on food stamps and welfare, the medium income has gone down, that almost every American is worse of today than they were four years ago when President Obama took office.

I think that that represents an opportunity again for him to talk about his policies and his plan to create jobs. Certainly, we haven't heard a jobs plan from this president.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund. Thank you for spending some time with us this morning.

LOPEZ: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. So, it turns out it was the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter who helped arrange for the release of those explosive Mitt Romney tapes. James Carter IV considers himself an opposition researcher for the Democratic Party.

He says he stumbled on the portions of Romney's remarks on YouTube and used Twitter to track down the person who posted them. Our Anderson Cooper tried to find out more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You know the true identity of the person who recorded it. Why doesn't that person want their identity known?

JAMES CARTER IV, JIMMY CARTER'S GRANDSON: I don't know their name, actually.

COOPER: So, how do you deal with them? Just online?

CARTER: Yes. Just direct messages on Twitter. That's how I got in touch with him originally and that's how we have done all our communicating.

COOPER: Do you know how the person came to be in the room, to videotape it? Do you know if they were supporter of Mitt Romney or Democratic supporter of President Obama?

CARTER: I don't think I was supposed to say that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Direct messaging on Twitter. If that's not a statement about our times, I don't know what it is. Carter says he began researching Romney long before the Republicans began bashing his grandfather, and he says he wasn't motivated by revenge, but he does say that this makes the discovery and the release of the tapes that much more satisfying.

SAMBOLIN: All right. More Americans say they are feeling optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country, and that's fueling a spike in the polls for President Obama. Take a look at the latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. The President opening a five-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters.

The survey was taken after the two conventions and just before the GOP challengers controversial 47 percent comments were released this week. And the President's also making gains in some key swing states. The latest CBS/"New York Times"/Quinnipiac poll has Obama ahead of Romney, 51 percent to 45 percent in Wisconsin and Virginia. The President has a four-point leader over the GOP challenger, 50 percent to 46 percent. And let's look at Colorado, the President's now sporting a slim one- point edge over Romney, 48 percent to 47 percent.

BERMAN: In the next hour of EARLY START, Delaware governor, Jack Markell, who is an Obama campaign surrogate, he will be joining us here live in our New York studio. And at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," the Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, joins Soledad to talk about the challenges facing the Romney campaign in the face of these newly-released videotapes.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-seven minutes past the hour. The strike is finally over. Chicago teachers are heading back to school this morning after seven days on the picket line. Union delegates agreed yesterday to suspend the strike and accept a new contract. The walkout affected some 350,000 Chicago public school students.

BERMAN: Mother Nature leaving her calling card along the East Coast with a line of powerful storms pummeled the areas from Virginia to Maine. Tornado watches were closely (ph) in some parts of Virginia. Strong winds and torrential rain brought down power lines leaving thousands of people in the dark. Rob Marciano joins us right now from the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, John, you mentioned the tornado watches. As a matter of fact, up and down much of the East Coast. We had tornado watches yesterday, but there wasn't one tornado that dropped or we can verify from that, but plenty of wind both ahead of the front and the thunderstorms and during the thunderstorms and certainly enough to knock out power.

At one point, there well over 30,000 people without power on the D.C. area where they had a 61-mile-an-hour wind gust there. Middle Village, New York, 57-mile-an-hour wind gust, Atlantic City seeing 54, so a lot of tree limbs and trees down. You know, there are still lots of leaves on the trees so they kind of catches that wind like a sail and that does -- did a fair amount of damage across much of the northeast.

The front right now is just about to push off the east coast of Massachusetts and Maine but still breezy conditions, especially across Maine this morning with wind advisory up with winds gusting 30 or 40 miles an hour and some leftover rain shower. So, with this stretching all the way back through the Carolinas and down across parts of Florida, but the damage done for the most part.

A little bit cooler behind this. Current temperatures are in the 30s and 40s in parts of the Western Great Lakes and some of that chillier will be into replace that humid warm stuff that was there before the front came through yesterday -- John, Zoraida back --

BERMAN: Thanks, Rob. And no tornadoes but you were just saying, you know, the wind was really powerful and was scary anyway. SAMBOLIN: That was very scary. And you had all of those downed power lines and there's a message there. Don't tiptoe over power lines in the morning. You know, I was really worried about you.

BERMAN: I have nothing to say.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: I have no comment to that. Don't do it at home no matter what I did this morning.

Thirty-nine minutes after the hour right now. And they both want to be commander in chief, but President Obama and Mitt Romney don't agree on how to spend your tax dollars on our armed forces. CNN goes in depth into each candidate's plan coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Welcome back, everyone. All this week, CNN is going in depth exploring the issues that impact you, the voter. And we'll look -- with less than seven weeks to go until Election Day, our focus this morning turns to the military as Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, reports President Obama and Mitt Romney who don't exactly see eye to eye when it comes to funding our armed forces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How many troops and just what weapons are needed to defend the nation? President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney each are making a different case. Governor Romney has said he wants to significantly add to our conventional forces.

ROMNEY: We must have a commitment not just a more ships and more aircraft but also my idea to more members of our armed forces.

STARR: President Obama wants a smaller conventional force and $500 billion in Pentagon spending cuts over the next ten years.

OBAMA: And so long as I'm commander in chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STARR: Let's start with the Romney plan. The candidate says he favors a larger force of naval ships and aircraft but has not said how he'd pay for it. Romney has also said he wants to add 100,000 troops to the current force of 1.4 million.

Now, for a look at Obama's plan. As part of $500 billion in spending cuts, President Obama says he wants to get rid of older ships and delay buying new ones. He also proposes cutting the army by some 66,000 and reducing the marine corps by another 20,000. Obama envisions continuing use of small Special Forces teams and unmanned drones, a signature weapon of the last decade.

But Romney's surrogate and former DOD comptroller, Dov Zakheim, says not so fast.

DOV ZAKHEIM, ROMNEY SENIOR ADVISER: There's no objection or ideological objection at all to having drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned subsurface vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles, all kinds of unmanned vehicles. The issue is to what extent do you rely almost exclusively on drones and on Special Forces?

STARR: For President Obama, secret CIA drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and Yemen have had results without risking putting U.S. troops on the ground. He told CNN's Jessica Yellin --

OBAMA: It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.

PETER SINGER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: I don't think whether Obama or Romney wins. We're going to see this technology away or see any greater minimized use of it because of their own approach. I think we've seen President Obama's most definitely willing to utilize.

He's actually been a signature part of his counterterrorism agenda, and it would be very hard for Romney to roll that back even if he wanted to.

STARR (on-camera): Whether it's Romney or Obama in the oval office, the bigger problem with drones may be the international pushback from government and human rights groups, increasingly voicing their opposition.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thanks to Barbara.

Forty-five minutes past the hour. A fugitive with a multimillion dollar price on his head caught. There he is there in Colombia. Why it could mean the end of an era? That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty-nine minutes past the hour.

Here's Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.

ROMANS: Good morning, you two. Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: No apologies for Mitt Romney this morning. He says his controversial comments at a fundraiser were designed to draw a sharp contrast between his views on government and the President's. Romney described nearly half of all Americans as dependent, not taking personal responsibility, and said they would support President Obama no matter what. The President of Colombia says his country's last big-time drug lord has been captured. Alleged drug boss, Daniel "Loco" Barrera was arrested in Venezuela following a multinational efforts that included help from United States. Barrera is one of Colombia's most wanted fugitives. Last year, authorities offered $2.7 million for information leaving to his arrest.

The Toronto Blue Jays have suspended shortstop Yunel Escobar for three games without pay after he was spotted at Saturday's game wearing eye black with a Spanish homophobic slur written on it. Escobar's salary for the games he's missing will be donated to the group's You Can Play and GLAAD.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sent the controversial voter I.D. law back to a lower court. The high court called for more hearings on whether the new Republican-backed law can be implemented by this fall. The law required voters to have specific state issue photo I.D. A move that opponents say could disfranchise many minorities and also the elderly.

The Duchess of Cambridge showed off her dance moves during an appearance Tuesday on the island of Tuvalu. Back at home, Middleton is becoming --

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: -- in a scandal involving, of course, topless photos as she won a court battle against a French magazine. She and her husband, Prince William, are on a goodwill tour of Southeast Asia as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee. There are pictures of him dancing, too. I mean, it's --

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Is it a wild (ph) moment for you?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: I guess it is tough to be a royal.

BERMAN: I didn't realize that was my outside voice.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: It was good. It was a natural reaction there.

BERMAN: She's a good dancer.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. She's a good dancer. She was moving her hips swaying, basically.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: A good dancer, like I said.

Coming up, a packed hour ahead on EARLY START. Mitt Romney is not backing down from comments caught on tape at a private fundraiser about what he called a titled Americans' on government support. Democrats are still pouring it on. We'll have a big one here. Delaware governor, Jack Markell, an Obama campaign surrogate, he will be joining us here live at 6:30 a.m. Eastern.

SAMBOLIN: And then at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," the Republicans respond. Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, joins Soledad O'Brien.

Plus a special treat the next hour. Former Brat-packer turned travel writer, "Weekend at Bernie's" own, Andrew McCarthy, has written a new book about his travels around the world to find himself. He is going to join us live. And he says that traveling solo is akin to infidelity. I can't wait to have a conversation about that.

BERMAN: He's an award-winning travel writer.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he is, indeed. He is, indeed.

But first, the richest people ever assembled in one room. Major power players and big givers gracing the cover of "Forbes."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It's 55 minutes after the hour right now. I'm John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin. And we are taking a look at what is trending on the internet this morning.

SAMBOLIN: So, do you want to see what a $126 billion looks like?

BERMAN: Badly.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: So, here you go. It is the fold-out cover of "Forbes" magazine 30th anniversary issue that is featuring the titans of philanthropy, those who made it big and (INAUDIBLE). It includes Oprah, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, and Jon Bon Jovi. A $126 billion in net worth for that bunch of folks. The photo was taken in the trustees room of the New York Public Library.

BERMAN: That's good for Jon Bon Jovi getting stuff and that picture --titans of --

All right. The most anticipated baby photo ever! The live panda cam at the Smithsonian National Zoo has picked up his few glimpses of giant panda Mei Xiang's newborn cub. He was born on Sunday night. You can see Mei Xiang cradling her baby here and taken out with her mouth, which we're told it's okay. That's perfectly normal behavior for pandas, and she is nursing. They say these are all very good signs that the baby is healthy.

SAMBOLIN: That's wonderful. I know that they were having a little naming contest going on right now.

BERMAN: Those are great pictures. SAMBOLIN: Yes. Yes.

BERMAN: And you can see more of them at CNN.com.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, you can. All right. President Obama made an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" last night. It was a pretty serious chat, but the President and Dave did manage to share a few laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": You look great.

OBAMA: I feel good.

LETTERMAN: How much do you weigh?

OBAMA: You know --

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: -- about 180.

LETTERMAN: 180 looks good on you.

OBAMA: Thank you.

LETTERMAN: -- because that's just about where I am and I don't look so good at 180.

OBAMA: You know, you look sharp.

LETTERMAN: You haven't seen me naked.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: We're going to keep it that way.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. On that note, EARLY START continues right now.