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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Early Voting to Begin in Ohio; Candidates Prepare for First Debate; Iranian Official Flees Delegation; Debate Countdown Underway!; Video Of Missing Journalist?; Video Shows Cop Punching Woman In Face; Amtrak Train Versus Big Rig; Lebron James Brand Heroin?; Seth MacFarlane To Host Oscars; Ferries Collide In Hongkong, Killing 38; Second Suspect Arrested In St. Maarten Killings; Rooting For The Underdog

Aired October 2, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. Soledad O'Brien is on assignment today. Our STARTING POINT: a new urgency. Early voting underway in ten states, including the key state of Ohio, as we countdown to the very first presidential debate.

Plus, new numbers this morning showing Mitt Romney may be in big trouble with women.

ROMANS: Ahmadinejad's cameraman defects. The official photographer for the Iranian president now seeking asylum in the U.S. Why is he running? And could he have top-secret information?

BERMAN: Plus, deadly new details about Operation Fast & Furious. Fifty-seven previously undiscovered guns now linked to that botched ATF operation.

ROMANS: A packed show ahead. Sean Spicer, Communications Director at the Republican National Committee, Obama National Campaign Co-Chair, Ted Strickland, Emmy Award-winning sports caster, Len Berman, and actor Cary Elwes, famous for his role as Wesley in the "Princess Bride."

BERMAN: It is Tuesday, October 2nd. And as you wish, STARTING POINT begins right now.

ROMANS: All right. Our STARTING POINT the countdown to tomorrow night's high-stakes presidential debates.

BERMAN: You are about to look live at a stage where it will all unfold at the University of Denver. There it is, President Obama and Mitt Romney preparing to go face-to-face for 90 minutes with the presidency hanging in the balance. That's a lot, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Most Americans head to the polls in five weeks. But by that time an estimated 30 percent of the country will have already voted. BERMAN: That's because early voting gets underway this morning in the battleground state of Ohio, and the not-so-battleground state of Nebraska. That means ballots are already being cast in 10 states across the country.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is with us this morning.

And, Paul, more and more voters get a chance to go to the polls early. Why is this so important?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: It is interesting, because what happens if a big development happens in this first debate or even some of the other debates and you've already cast your ballot and you want to change your mind, too late. You've already cast your --

ROMANS: But these are diehards.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. Most of the people who are voting early in these states are diehards. Ohio starting today. You know, they're the second battleground state to start early. Iowa, Christine, I think you know something about that.

ROMANS: Yes. My mother has voted.

(LAUGHTER)

STEINHAUSER: Does she -- there you go. So it is interesting. About a third of the country voted in one way, shape or form before Election Day four years ago. We'll see a similar amount this time around probably.

BERMAN: It is where you get to see the campaigns flex their organizational muscle.

STEINHAUSER: Get those diehards, those devoted followers, those devoted people out to the polls. Exactly.

BERMAN: And especially important for the Obama team who may or may not be leading in the polls. Get them to the -- to the election sites now when they're ahead.

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. And I'm glad you brought up polls, because we do have some polls as you well know. We have a brand new CNN/ORC national poll that came out, and 50 to 47 percent, the President over Mitt Romney among likely voters. That three-point margin, of course within the sampling error. So very tight.

We've seen a very tight race in a bunch of the other national polls that have come out in the last 24 hours.

What about the economy? This is going to be the top issue, you would think, in this domestic oriented debate tomorrow night. There you go. Can you get any closer than that?

One of the things I want to talk about. The gender gap. We've seen it. ROMANS: Yes.

STEINHAUSER: And here's a brand new poll from Quinnipiac University, another national survey just came out this morning, just in the last hour, not even -- not even that. Look at that. The president with a very large advantage among women voters. In our poll it was a little smaller but the President also had the advantage. Mitt Romney has an advantage among men but not by as much.

BERMAN: Ten points. Yes, not as big, not enough to make up for the gap with women.

All right, Paul Steinhauser. Thanks very much for being with us this morning. Great to see you in person.

STEINHAUSER: Great to be here. Thanks.

BERMAN: Coming up in a few minutes, Sean Spicer will join us live. He is the Communications Director for the Republican National Committee.

ROMANS: Also ahead, Ted Strickland, the Obama Campaign's National Co- Chair.

BERMAN: All right. Word this morning that an Egyptian militant freed from prison in the wake of the Arab Spring is linked to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed four Americans. "The Wall Street Journal" identified the militant as Mohammed Jamal Abu Ahmed and report that U.S. intelligence has been monitoring his movements.

Meanwhile, the State Department has pulled all U.S. government personnel out of Benghazi. "The Washington Post" reports the consulate is closed and locked up. But the scene of the deadly attack remained unguarded.

ROMANS: There's also word that the White House has held a series of secret meetings over the past few months due to concern about the growing threat of al Qaeda's North Africa branch. "The Post" reports that a part of the discussion is focused on potential U.S. military strikes against the group known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

BERMAN: All right. A huge heads up this morning for those of you who have already purchased the new iPhone 5. Apple support forums online are being overloaded with complaints about a bug that drains cellular data usage even when phones are connected to Wi-Fi. Now this is forcing people to blow through their data caps in a matter of days. Apple has not publicly commented, but you know, it did already release a software upgrade with a bug fix.

ROMANS: Go Bears. The Chicago Bears mauling the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. The Chicago defense intercepting Tony Romo five times. Five times in a 34-18 drubbing in Dallas. Two of those picks were returned for touchdowns. The five interceptions matched a career high for the Cowboys' quarterback.

BERMAN: You know, I didn't see the game because I was sleeping. But five picks. Oh, man. Tony Romo.

All right, happy days are here again in the nation's capital. For the first time since 1933 -- FDR's rookie year, by the way -- Washington has a first place team. The Nationals clinching a division title last night. That's the first since the franchise moved there from Montreal.

Meanwhile, another huge story in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera closer to becoming baseball royalty. Cabrera had four hits last night including his 44th homerun of the year. Detroit clinched the division title in this game. But he was bigger news being he is now real close to becoming the first Triple Crown winner in baseball since 1967. Carl Yastrzemski, the Red Sox, by the way. He leads the league in homeruns, batting average and runs batted in. And this would be a huge deal if he pulls that off.

ROMANS: You always have a Red Sox reference.

BERMAN: There always is a Red Sox reference.

ROMANS: No matter what team it is there's a Red Sox reference.

BERMAN: It's all tied to the Red Sox. Don't know if we're (INAUDIBLE) in our next story.

Back to our top story this morning. Under 38 hours until debate night the candidates are cramming to get ready for the night which will focus on domestic policy. President Obama joking about it yesterday, talking to a supporter at a phone bank in Nevada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Basically they're keeping me indoors all the time. It's a drag. They're making me do my homework.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Mitt Romney put his spin on the debates last night, as well, at a rally in Denver. Trying to frame how they would be judged.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And what, in my view, it's not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves, the President and myself, it's -- it's about something bigger than that. These debates are an opportunity for each of us to describe the pathway forward for America that we would choose. And the American people are going to have to make their choice as to what kind of America they want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Based on the latest CNN national poll we showed you, there are going to be a lot at stake. The candidates within the margin of error on each other. Sean Spicer is the communications director for the Republican National Committee. He joins us now from the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C.

And, Sean, do you agree with Republican nominee Mitt Romney that the debate is not about winning and losing?

SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, I don't think it's about, you know, who scores the most points or not. It's about laying out a vision for where we want this country to go. Talking about how each candidate has a different vision. President Obama talking about a -- you know, a dependency on government. What he promised in 2008 hasn't gotten done. And Mitt Romney talking about the plan he has to take this country forward.

So I think it's an opportunity for both candidates to talk about where they want this country to head, the vision they have. I think unfortunately you're going to have President Obama make a lot of excuses as to why, when he was on that stage four years ago, not much of what he ever said was going to happen occurred.

BERMAN: Now on the subject of winning and losing, Chris Christie, a big supporter of Mitt Romney, has come out and said he expects a big win for Governor Romney in this debate. We talked to Brad Woodhouse yesterday from the Democratic side. This is what he said about Christie's comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD WOODHOUSE, COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, I think he set the bar high for Mitt Romney, and the bar should be high for Mitt Romney. I mean, he's gone through this campaign.

We're five weeks out, Soledad, and he has not said how he'd pay for his tax plan. We're five weeks out, he hasn't said how he'll shore up Medicare or Social Security. To protect benefits instead of cutting them. So the bar is really high for him. I think Chris Christie set it -- set it even a little higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Sean, how high is the bar for Governor Romney?

SPICER: I see the folks from the Obama campaign have talked down the expectations from the President so many days in a row that today I expect them to come out and say that the President's got a fear of public speaking.

I mean, these guys keep talking it down like, you know, it's going to be a blow-away. The fact is the President is the only one who's been on a one-on-one stage seven times --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But you guys are doing the same thing. You complain about it when the Democrats do it, but then you say the same thing.

SPICER: No, but I'm just -- I mean, the President is the only one who's actually been through a presidential debate. By all accounts, I think the one thing that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon is the President is a gifted speaker. He has amazing rhetoric. He can go out there and wow a crowd. That is his strength. I will give him that.

But I think that there is a big difference between going out over and over again and making promises and having great rhetoric, and then having a record to follow up on. I mean, that's where I think you're going to see the contrast tomorrow night.

Governor Romney is going to be able to lay out very succinctly where he wants to take the country and his plans and policies. I think the President is going to be talking about blame and excuses as to why he wasn't able to get things done even though he had a Democratic Congress for two years of his presidency.

BERMAN: Now --

SPICER: He made very specific promises, John, in 2008, on that same stage when he was -- when he was going after Senator McCain about cutting the deficit in half. Enacting a comprehensive immigration reform. Closing Guantanamo Bay.

BERMAN: Let's talk about immigration reform.

SPICER: Energy --

BERMAN: Let's talk about immigration reform.

SPICER: Yes.

BERMAN: Because Mitt Romney has been criticized, as well, for not being specific about his plans. And last night in Denver, he may have made a little bit of news on his views on immigration policy specifically. He did an interview with the "Denver Post," where he talked about the Dream Act or the waivers that President Obama granted to kids born here in this country.

And this is what Governor Romney said. He said, "The people who have received the special visa that the President has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they purchased away basically before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."

What he's saying there is he's not going to go after these people. This is the first time that he's really said that. He's had months to lay out this policy. Why are we only hearing it now for the first time?

SPICER: Well, I've heard it. I mean in the sense that the -- that what Governor Romney is talking about in terms of immigration is securing our border and then enacting comprehensive immigration reform among which includes trying to keep families together. H1b visa expansion so that when you have someone from another country that comes to the United States and gets a degree in higher education, in technology or science, that we stable an h1b visa to them so that they can stay in this country and help grow our economy and create jobs here.

So he has always made keeping families together part of his comprehensive immigration reform.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But he has never said --

SPICER: He has --

BERMAN: -- that he would let these visas stand that the President has just granted.

SPICER: No, no, no. What -- what you just said to me was that he said he was going to have it taken care of. Meaning that he has said that among his top priorities would be working with Congress, enacting a comprehensive immigration reform, of which keeping families together would be part of that program. So I think it's totally consistent with what he said, because it's a top priority of his to get done. And unlike this president, he would get it done in the first two years of his administration.

BERMAN: It may be consistent but you do agree what he told the "Denver Post" last night is new. It is new news as we say in the news business. He's never said that before.

SPICER: Well, I -- you may be saying he never used those same words in the same sentence before. But again if you go ahead and look at Mittromney.com where he laid out his immigration thing it talks about keeping families together. He also talks about making it a top priority in his administration the first two years. So I think to say within the first two years I'm going to have this solved so that we don't break up families is completely consistent with the plan that he's laid out.

BERMAN: Just a few minutes ago, Quinnipiac University released a new poll. We've seen a lot of polls the last few days. One of the numbers that jumped out at a lot of people in this poll was the so- called gender gap. President Obama leading Mitt Romney, 56-38 percent. My math says that's an 18-point lead among women. Why such a big gap, Sean?

SPICER: Well, I think it's something that we continue to talk to all Americans about, the path going forward. But you could similarly make the case that President Obama has a gender gap with men --

BERMAN: Ten points. A lot smaller.

SPICER: He has a gender gap with -- he has a gender gap with independent, or excuse me, a gap with independents. So I mean you can look at a poll and start breaking out various things. But I can -- rest assured that I can tell you that Governor Romney's plan is one that addresses how to make this country better for all Americans. That it deals with issues that women care about in terms of ensuring that we have better health care so that our families and our kids can get better. That we have fewer regulations because so many women are running small businesses today.

So it is a campaign that's focused on all Americans, and so I think you're going to hear a lot more about that at the debate. But -- and -- you know, I believe that that will all close up by election day.

BERMAN: All right, Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee. It's great to see you this morning. Thanks for joining us.

SPICER: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: You can check out the complete coverage of our debate tomorrow night right here on CNN and on CNN.com. It all starts at 7:00 Eastern Time.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, placing blame for the housing bubble. The president's mortgage broad task force filed its first lawsuit against a big bank.

BERMAN: And he says he is afraid to return to Iran. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's personal cameraman wants asylum in the U.S. He's said to be more than just a photographer. What does he know and will he talk? We will talk to his American lawyer coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. "Minding Your Business," U.S. stock futures signal a higher open for stocks today, and markets closed higher yesterday after reports showed manufacturing expanded last month.

The New York attorney general has filed suit against JPMorgan over the risky mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold during the housing bubble. The civil suit alleges Bear Stearns, which JPMorgan now owns, misled investors into thinking these toxic mortgage loans had been fully evaluated. Total losses suffered from the mortgage-backed securities, $22.5 billion in 2006 to 2007.

Google is now worth $249.1 billion. Unseating Microsoft as the world's second largest tech company in terms of market cap. Google took the number two spot yesterday when it gained about 1 percent, closing at $761.78 a share. Apple still market cap king worth $628 billion.

BERMAN: Sounds like a lot of money.

ROMANS: It's a -- it's a lot of money and everything has a B in front of it.

(LAUGHTER) BERMAN: This is now a really surprising and interesting story you're all going to want to watch. The United States may have been handed an inside source this morning from the inner most circle of the Iranian government. While President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York making his final appearance before the U.N. General Assembly, a cameraman traveling with his delegation was making a covert getaway. Contacting American authorities to seek asylum.

ROMANS: Yes. Hassan Gol Khanban was reportedly a part of Ahmadinejad's inner circle for several years. Could be a major intelligence loss for the normally tight-lipped Iranian government.

With us now is the attorney for Gol Khanban here in the United States, Paul O'Dwyer.

Welcome to the program.

PAUL O'DWYER, ATTORNEY FOR IRANIAN OFFICIAL SEEKING ASYLUM: Good morning.

ROMANS: So he came here for the U.N. General Assembly, and then contacted authorities. Why is he seeking asylum?

O'DWYER: Well, he's seeking asylum because he obviously does not want to return to live in Iran. He has --

ROMANS: Why?

O'DWYER: He has concerns about -- well, first of all, he does not want to continue to live in the regime. He is offended by how the regime treats people, about how it treats its enemies, about how it treats the Iranian people, about the level of persecution there. And he also has concerns about -- now about his own safety.

When he came here -- he was, as you say, he was a cameraman with the entourage. He came here with the understanding that he was to take video of the -- to do the -- he works for the Iranian News Agency and so he was to do stuff and to do camerawork, you know, at the U.N. and all of that. The authorities wanted him to take video footage of other stuff that he did not want to do.

BERMAN: Like what?

O'DWYER: We don't want to go into too many details but there was things that he thought that he --

ROMANS: Like propaganda-type stuff?

O'DWYER: What -- yes, things that were outside of what he had -- had thought that that was --

BERMAN: Espionage?

O'DWYER: I don't know that I would necessarily call it espionage. But he was concerned about the safety of people that would have been involved. People who would have been required to take video footage of. And he refused to do it and so he knew that, but then when he returned to Iran that he was going to have to face consequences.

BERMAN: I think people are fascinated by the cloak and dagger of a -- of a defection.

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: Walk us through what he did while he was here. And also walk us through what he did with his family.

O'DWYER: It's actually -- it sounds fascinating. And it's actually not -- it's kind of anti-climactic because what you do is nothing. I mean what happened was, they left, he didn't. And so he just stayed.

ROMANS: His family, though, is no longer in Iran?

O'DWYER: His immediate family have left Iran also.

BERMAN: How did he get them out?

O'DWYER: They left -- I mean you can travel out of Iran that you don't need an exit visa. I mean, I think -- but I know that the Iranian government prohibits certain people, particular people from traveling. But his family were able to travel. And they traveled as they routinely had in the past while he was away.

BERMAN: The other aspect that I think is so fascinating to people is when you are a presidential photographer or videographer, you have unbelievable access --

ROMANS: Right.

BERMAN: -- to the national leader here. A little while ago we spoke to a former White House videographer, someone who is close to President Obama, about the access he had. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARUN CHAUDHARY, FIRST OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE VIDEOGRAPHER: Look, you know, photographers and videographers, they put enormous amount of trust in us when it comes to world leader coverage. You know, because, you're not this fly on the wall like people think. You're actually part of a team. And clearly, this videographer was enough of the team that he wasn't just a state television employee they brought him on trips. When you're on a trip you're inside the bubble. There's very little you don't see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: What did he see that could be helpful for American authorities?

O'DWYER: Well, as you say, he had -- he was not an adviser. He wasn't in any policy role. He was a videographer with the Iranian News Agency. But he was assigned to the presidential detail, and obviously -- I mean he had been in that position for many years. So he had -- you know, he had -- he had access to -- I mean he worked on that sort of higher echelon and that sort of --

ROMANS: What happens then to him? He's in the country, he's now in the United States legally as he waits for his asylum to be processed.

O'DWYER: Yes.

ROMANS: So we'll have to have a hearing with the -- with the government, with the immigration and customs authorities, and they'll have to decide whether or not he meets the qualifications for asylum?

O'DWYER: Basically that's it, in a nutshell. Yes.

BERMAN: And has U.S. intelligence already been in touch with him trying to get whatever information he has?

O'DWYER: We've been in communication with the government.

BERMAN: That sounds vague. What do you mean you've been in communication with the government?

(LAUGHTER)

O'DWYER: That means exactly that.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm trying to be vague. Yes, we've obviously, when somebody from a presidential delegation stays here after they've, you know, been here for a limited purpose, the government is going to have an interest here, and justifiably so, in who they are and why have they stayed here, and are they --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Why is he afraid for -- why is he afraid for his safety? You said he's afraid for his safety. Is he afraid for his safety, why?

O'DWYER: Yes. Here in the United States? Yes, well, he's -- yes, because of the Iranian government has a fairly long reach. They have an expensive and a fairly sophisticated, you know, spy network in countries around the world. And so he's obviously concerned about repercussions and retaliation against him here.

BERMAN: All right, Paul O'Dwyer, when the time is right and it is safe enough we would love to speak to your client. It seems like he has a lot to say and it would be fascinating.

Thank you so much.

O'DWYER: Thank you.

BERMAN: For joining us this morning.

ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, a leap of faith. A man escapes his burning home by falling into the arms of his friends and neighbors. More -- amazing video and how he's doing now. BERMAN: And American Airlines taking a closer look at some of its planes. Why? Rows of seats came loose.

STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Want to look at your top stories now this morning.

And if you've ever wondered what a firefight looks like, boy, this is it. Chilling video. U.S. soldiers helmet cam captures this gun battle with the Taliban. It happened back in April. The soldier is heard yelling on the video, I'm hit, I'm hit. After running out without cover to draw fire away from his squad. Officials say he suffered just minor shrapnel wounds from bullets, which actually struck his weapon.

ROMANS: All right. The White House confirming a hack attack on its computer system but says it was detected and foiled, and no classified information was at risk. Officials are playing down a published report that hackers linked to China's government broke into a system used by the White House military office for nuclear commands.

BERMAN: All right. We had some heart-stopping video out of New York City. A 72-year-old man desperately trying to escape a fire hangs on for dear life from his third floor apartment window. Then he lets go. There it is. Wow. Friends and neighbors below, they catch him. The whole thing, meanwhile, caught on cell phone video. Local stations are reporting that Ronnie Poe did not suffer any broken bones. Lucky man.

ROMANS: Wow. American Airlines has grounded several of its 757s after a row of seats came loose on two separate flights. First on Saturday, then again yesterday. A spokeswoman for American says an initial investigation found there may be an issue with certain seat models and how they fit into tracks meant to keep them in place. The FAA is also looking into what happened. My gosh.

BERMAN: Can you imagine that?

ROMANS: First of all, your flight leaves on time, you're like woo- hoo, oh, no, my seat's not bolted down.

All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT, after some high profile stumbles the debate pressure is on Mitt Romney. So what is his strategy for tomorrow night? Up next, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell who backs the GOP candidate, he is going to stop by and tell us.

BERMAN: And it was the night 22-year-old Cassius Clay shook up the world, beating Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Title of the World. One of the greatest sports moments ever coming up.

Plus Emmy Award-winning sports caster Len Berman joins us live to tell us more of his favorites.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Tomorrow night, Denver will be the home to the first of three presidential debates. You're looking live at the hall of the University of Denver where two candidates will square off for an hour and a half in primetime.

Both candidates took a break from studying yesterday. Romney held a pre-debate rally in Denver to get locals fired up for Wednesday's face-off and President Obama stopped by a local campaign call center to meet supporters and make some phone calls.

Bob McDonnell is the Governor of Virginia. He is also the chair of the Republican Governor's Association and a supporter of Mitt Romney's campaign. Good morning, sir.

GOVERNOR BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Christine. Thanks for having me on.

ROMANS: Pleasure to have you. It's going to be an exciting week. What does your guy have to do on Wednesday to really send it home, and to start getting more support in the polls?

MCDONNELL: I think he's got to paint the vision for the future about why a Romney presidency for four years is going to be a lot better than four more years of President Obama.

And I think this is the first time, Christine, where people have had a chance to see side by side the two candidates. Maybe 50 million, 60 million people watching. And I think he's going to hone in on the top issues that Americans care about.

And that is how to get our great country out of debt and back to work, with 8 percent unemployment for 43 months and gas prices doubling, and adding $6 trillion to the national debt. These are clearly things Americans know we're on the wrong track on.

I think what you're going to see Mitt Romney talk a lot about his plans to reverse that trend, policies of Obama that have not worked. And why Romney's plans will work. I think that's the heart and soul of what this election is about.

ROMANS: You know, he has been talking about this on the stump speech. And I mean, tell me why for Mitt Romney the economy is not resonating with him more.

When you look at the polls and our polling in particular, the President and Mitt Romney are basically neck and neck on the issue of the economy.

A little bit of an edge for your candidate on the issue of unemployment. But why, with all of those statistics that you just rattled off, why isn't your guy, the business guy, doing better on that?

MCDONNELL: It is somewhat perplexing given how poorly the President has managed the economy. There has been a lot of promises, and platitudes, but not a lot of results. That's Mitt Romney's shtick.

He's about getting results, as governor of Massachusetts and turning around the Olympics. I think there have been a couple things.

One, the Democrats got a little bump out of the convention.

Two, I think the President has done a good job on TV with some of his face to the camera commercials, making his promises. Even though they're some of the same ones he made before, he sounds good.

ROMANS: Well, it's resonating --

MCDONNELL: Now they're actually getting things done.

ROMANS: You look at this Quinnipiac poll this morning that's getting a lot of buzz, the gap between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is 18 points on this Quinnipiac poll.

Can Mitt Romney win without closing out this gap? And what does he need to do to change whatever he is -- whatever he is stumping on it's not resonating with women the way you say the President's failed policies are.

MCDONNELL: Well, I'd say he needs to complete the sentence. I think people get at a fundamental level that this economy is not on track. We're not doing well, 23 million people without jobs, the highest number of people on food stamps.

You know, they know at a gut level it's not working. So I think Governor Romney will now complete the sentence and say, OK, going forward in four years, you want four more years of that?

Or will -- or will you accept my plan that is Governor Romney's for energy production, and more trade, and workforce development, and a better tax policies for small business. This is the plan that will get us to a better recovery, and more access to the American dream.

ROMANS: When you say complete the sentence, but so far that sentence, you look at the polls and he is just not, I mean, or does the campaign need to refocus away from the economy since that doesn't seem to be resonating?

MCDONNELL: I disagree with that. There's no question in all the polls, Christine, that while this gap is there, that that's what people are voting on. They're ultimately it's about jobs, it's about their financial future, it's about their American debt, it's about gas prices and energy.

I think that's why tomorrow night is so important. Side by side the record of Barack Obama versus the plans and vision of Mitt Romney and why the future will go better with a Romney presidency, that's what his message will be tomorrow night.

I think it will be compelling and a side by side comparison is what people have been wanting to see. I think this is a great chance for Governor Romney to close this gap. In Virginia, it's still margin of error. We feel pretty good about our chance. We have money parity. We didn't have that four years ago. We're pretty encouraged about closing this out here.

ROMANS: These are clearly the closing arguments of the campaign, you know, and you're right, the side by side comparison first of three.

I want to switch quickly to the subject of immigration. Romney's quoted in the "Denver Post" this morning on immigration, and about allowing these immigration waivers that the President offered up in June to young people who are in the country who brought here illegally, who may be going to college, their whole life they've been in the United States.

But, they are not legally in this country. This is what he says -- Mitt Romney says the people who have received the special visa that the President has put in place, which is a two-year visa should expect the visa would continue to be valid.

I'm not going to take something that they've purchased. Before those visas have expired, we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed. Is he softening on his immigration stance here?

At the beginning of this, of this campaign, we were hearing about self-deportation, about taking away the -- the magnets for people to come here illegally, and now he's talking about allowing these visas to stand.

MCDONNELL: I can only say that on the immigration issue that's another example of the President's failure. He promised comprehensive immigration reform four years ago, Christine. We're still waiting. He hasn't got it done.

I think what Mitt Romney is saying this policy is already in place that affects a very small number of people. And those are the cases that tug at your heartstrings, obviously.

But what I think the governor is saying that unless we get border security, and change the enforcement rules internally in the country, and then have a plan to deal with maybe 12 million people that are legal, we're not doing justice to the American people. You need to have a comprehensive plan --

ROMANS: But why now? Why now because it seems to be new language to me and you talk about border enforcement and interior enforcement. And frankly, that's something progressives have criticized this president about. They complain, too, that there's a lack of comprehensive immigration reform, but they also complain about his tough crackdown.

MCDONNELL: Look, I don't think this is an issue that's going to move a lot of voters. It is in certain areas of the country. I do think it's a one more unmet need that the American people have had for a long time.

I think our comprehensive approach, frankly, both of them have promise d is what we need to do. Ultimately that's not what people are going to vote on. They want to get their sons and daughters out of debt, back to work --

ROMANS: You don't think immigration issue is something that's going to resonate with independent voters at all?

MCDONNELL: Well, not much. I mean, look at all the polls. They don't, I can tell you from listening to people in Virginia, from looking at the polls, it's about jobs, the economy, energy, prices, and leadership, a vision for the future.

This is certainly a broken promise of the Obama administration. That Governor Romney can fix. And if people in a few of the border states and areas but it doesn't have the intensity like jobs and the economy, gas prices do right now.

I think that's mostly what this debate will be about tomorrow night. I think it's the right message for Governor Romney and I think this gets him as close as that gap in the swing states and makes it a new ball game.

ROMANS: Mostly if you think mostly on the economy that would be really interesting because they have been real tight in the polls on the economy. Governor Bob McDonnell from Virginia, thank you so much, sir.

MCDONNELL: OK.

ROMANS: You can watch the first presidential debate tomorrow night right here on CNN, also on cnn.com, live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: Let's take a look now at the rest of the mornings headlines. A video posted on YouTube appears to show American freelance journalist, Austin Tice who has been missing in Syria since mid- August. In the video posted by supporters of the Assad regime, the man is blindfolded and clearly in distress.

He's being shoved by militants with machine guns and shoulder fired missiles. His family and two news organizations he works for say the man is Tice. But the State Department says it cannot verify it's him at this point.

ROMANS: Police in Philadelphia are investigating an accident, incident that was caught on tape during Sunday's Puerto Rican Day Parade. The video shows an officer punching a woman in the face and knocking her to the ground.

Authorities say the woman was throwing water or beer on the cops prior to this incident. Philadelphia Police say the officer's been identified. He has been taken of the street. They're conducting a full-scale investigation.

BERMAN: Three cars on an Amtrak train are derailed and sitting at this angle this morning south of Fresno, California. Wow that's not a good angle to be sitting at. Officials say a tractor trailer failed to stop at a crossing and plowed into the side of the passenger train yesterday afternoon. More than 170 people were on board at the time. Dozens were injured, but luckily the injuries were not serious.

ROMANS: This is one endorsement Lebron James could do without. A Philadelphia Police busted a 19-year-old drug dealer after he told 140 packets of heroin to an undercover officer. Now the heroin bags featured Lebron's name and a silhouette of the Miami Heat star throwing down a monster dunk.

BERMAN: Yes. All right, we're going to move on now. Seth MacFarlane, the man behind TV's "Family Guy" and the summer movie blockbuster "Ted," he's taking on a new gig, hosting next year's Oscars.

When he was asked if any of the other animated characters might make cameos, MacFarlane told the Hollywood reporter it would be expensive and too soon to say right now. They are obviously trying to appeal to younger people with that.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, two ferries collide in Hongkong. Dozens are dead. Hongkong police are already taking action against crew members.

And a haphazard Google search leads to the arrest of a man the feds have been trying to nab for 30 years. You can't escape technology apparently. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. At least 38 people have been killed in the collision of two passenger ferries in Hongkong. Hongkong police arrested six crew members from both vessels on suspicion of endangering passengers. More than 100 survivors were pulled from the water.

ROMANS: Police in St. Maarten have arrested a second suspect in connection with the murders of an American couple on the Caribbean Island. The 17-year-old was captured after an intensive search. Michael and Thelma King were stabbed to death in their vacation home last month. Police aren't ruling out further suspects.

BERMAN: A Google search by a bored U.S. Marshal has turned up one of the FBI's most wanted criminals after 30 years on the run. John Donald Cody was already under arrest in Ohio under the name Bobby Thompson, but a search matched an old photo of Cody to his alter ego. The feds want him in connection with a multimillion dollar charity scam.

ROMANS: All right, something missing from the IKEA Catalogue in one country, moms! The giant furniture retailer IKEA apologizing for the Saudi Arabian version of its catalogue. It deleted all traces of women from the magazine and from its companion web site.

Apparently, in accordance with Saudi Arabian rules about showing women in public, but IKEA now says it regrets the move and that excluding women is in conflict with the company's values.

BERMAN: Can't take mom out of the catalogue. All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, spanning the world to find the greatest moments in sports, award winning sportscaster, Len Berman, no relation, joins us to talk about his new book. It is wonderful. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. They are the stories that inspire us. Those come from behind victories, struggles against long odds to become the very best.

ROMANS: That's why we love sports. And you'll find so many of these stories in the new kids' book, "The Greatest Moment in Sports, Upsets and Underdogs." We've got the author with us live, Emmy-award winning sportscaster, Len Berman. Welcome to the program.

LEN BERMAN, AUTHOR, "UPSETS AND UNDERDOGS": I want to know if we're related.

BERMAN: I wish. I would be a lot farther along in broadcasting if you were my uncle.

L. BERMAN: Chris Berman?

BERMAN: Neither.

ROMANS: Talking sports, no less.

BERMAN: We were talking about this in the break. Is it because it deals with his upsets and underdogs, unbelievable cherished thing?

L. BERMAN: I think so. As I was halfway through writing it, I realized it wasn't a sports book. That sounds odd because every story is sports.

I envision young kids reading this and they see boys and girls, and blacks and white, and Latinos and Asian, and Native American, and handicapped and they are all succeeding.

And I'm thinking maybe it's a book of empowerment for young people to think if they can do it, maybe I can, too. Not necessarily in the sports venue, but in some area of life.

ROMANS: This is from the book. This is one of the first examples you see, the horse named "Upset."

L. BERMAN: I love that story because if you ask people -- you know, Manowar, one of the greatest horses ever from the early 1900s, raced 21 times, lost only once. What was the name of the horse that beat him?

The answer is "Upset." The point where many people think the word upset came into the English language because he beat Manowar. Not true. But I just it's a cool story. So "Upset" is the first story of the upset.

BERMAN: And then, you know, there are ones like Muhammad Ali, Casious Clay, the greatest of all time. Many people forget, he started as an underdog.

L. BERMAN: Well, he was an underdog and disliked. He was the first trash talker. So when he came out and said I'm the greatest and you know, made rhymes. I'm grade and going to win in eight. People didn't like him.

They thought he was obnoxious and arrogant and they wanted to see him knocked on campus and what happens is he goes to fight the great -- he was the baddest man on the planet before Mike Tyson.

He had served time in a Missouri State Penitentiary for armed robbery, heavy favorite, and only lost once. The arena is half empty because everyone assumes in Miami that Clay is going to lose, and Clay now I'm the greatest.

BERMAN: And the rematch in Maine of all places.

L. BERMAN: They are still looking for that punch.

ROMANS: There's another underdog in your book, Jim Abbott, a pitcher, born without a right hand. This is Yankee legend here.

L. BERMAN: Yes, well, he played for other teams, too. Could you imagine not being born with a right hand? His parents wanted him to play soccer for obvious reasons. He wants to play baseball with all his friends.

First game he ever pitches on Little League, he throws a no-hitter. He goes on to start at the Flint High School and the quarterback -- he becomes the quarterback.

The coach says he has a strong arm so he becomes the quarterback and he also punts. Can you imagine trying to field the long snap with one hand and then punting?

Goes on and wins the gold medal for the U.S. in the Olympics in '88, pitches a no-hitter for the Yankees. I mean, it was an inspiring story.

BERMAN: What I love so much about the Jim Abbott story was that it was a feel-good story to begin with. The guy with one arm makes the big leagues, but he did more than that. He didn't just make the big leagues. He excelled. He threw the no-hitter. That's what made it --

L. BERMAN: Not only that. He went to play in the National League where they don't have the designated hitter so he had to bat.

BERMAN: He wasn't bad.

L. BERMAN: With one hand. He gets a hit, he gets RBI. He did it all. BERMAN: Can I ask you a selfish question? I have 5-year-old twin boys. They have a tendency to cheer for whoever is winning. I'm trying to convince them it's not always good to pull for the front- runner. You should pull for the underdog, the guy who is behind. How do you tell someone they should be cheering for the underdog?

L. BERMAN: Tell them to grow up. What are you teaching your kids? No. I think that kids -- I'm not sure they cheer for the winner. I remember going to the game as a kid and turning to my brother and father and saying who do I root for?

You have to have an interest, but I would think rooting for the underdog is the natural. I would think. I mean, when a team comes in undefeated as the Patriots did in that famous Super Bowl, your team.

And then the Giants catch a ball off his helmet. I would think people want to see -- they don't want to see the favorites win. People root against the Yankees. They want to see the little guy succeed.

BERMAN: Do you have a favorite underdog of all time?

L. BERMAN: I love the story of Jason McElwain, remember the autistic youngster who was the student manager of his high school basketball team.

Let him in the last game of his last year in high school, in for four minutes, scores 20 points and carry him off the court on their shoulders. I love it.

BERMAN: It made the nation cry. It made the President cry, right?

L. BERMAN: George Bush actually went to visit him on Air Force One in Rochester. Talk about overcoming the odds and succeeding, that's what it's all about.

BERMAN: Any opinions on the Ryder Cup, would that make the book?

L. BERMAN: Ryder Cup, you know, the book is based on perspective. You talk about the miracle on ice and the U.S. Olympic hockey, that isn't such a miracle on ice in Russia. So everything depends on your point of view. Ryder Cup, great collapse in America, no. It's all perfect perspective.

ROMANS: Len Berman, really nice to meet you.

L. BERMAN: Thanks, Christine. It's nice to meet you. Say hello to Uncle Joe.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, we got deadly new details about "Operation Fast and Furious." Sixty seven previously undiscovered guns now linked to the botched ATF operation. Is this scandal just growing larger?

BERMAN: And prepare to die, the classic "Princess Bride" turns 25, 25, superstar actor Cary Elwes, stops by our studio live. We will learn how to say his name correctly. He will also tell us his favorite irresistible quotes from the film.

ROMANS: We'll quiz our STARTING POINT team. Don't go away. We're back in a moment.

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ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome to 8:00. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN: In English and in German. I'm John Berman. Soledad is on assignment today. Our STARTING POINT, a new urgency, early voting under way in ten states including the key state of Ohio as we countdown to the very first presidential debate.

Plus, new numbers this morning showing Mitt Romney may be in some serious trouble with women.

ROMANS: Was the "Fast and Furious Operation," much bigger than expected. The 57 previously undiscovered guns now linked to the botched gun-running operation. Some possibly tied to a hit on teenagers.

BERMAN: And sword play, giants, evil prince, beautiful princess and, yes, some kissing. What on earth could we be talking about other than the "Princess Bride?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing gave buttercup much pleasure as ordering Westley around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want to see my face shining in it by morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you wish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: As you wish.

BERMAN: As you wish. We will have the farm boy, Westley, actor, Cary Elwes will stop by STARTING POINT live as we celebrate 25 years since the film's big debut.