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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Presidential Debate Reviewed; Polls Indicate Strong Debate Performance by Mitt Romney; Fact Checking The Debate; Obama Versus Romney, Round One; Poll: Romney Outdebates Obama; Deadly Meningitis Outbreak; Sex Offenders' Halloween Lawsuit

Aired October 4, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our "starting point": game on. President Obama and Mitt Romney go toe-to-toe in the first presidential debate. The verdict is in.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, the average person making three million bucks is getting a $250,000 tax break.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Virtually, everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.

O'BRIEN: Obama stumbles --

OBAMA: last point I'd make before --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your minute is up, sir.

OBAMA: No. I think I had five seconds before you interrupted me.

O'BRIEN: Romney shined.

ROMNEY: Mr. President, you're entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.

O'BRIEN: Most importantly, did the debate change votes.

OBAMA: I think the American people have to ask themselves, is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace secret because they're too good?

ROMNEY: What we're seeing right now is, in my view, a trickle-down government approach which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams and it's not working.

O'BRIEN: It's Thursday, October 4th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our starting point this morning is the morning after debate night in America. Both candidates are on the campaign trail today, again, after the first of three presidential debates, the first one, of course, in Denver last night. President Obama and Mitt Romney going toe to toe on critical issues, like the economy and health care. And by most accounts, it was Mitt Romney who emerged the victor.

Lots of debate analysis ahead on STARTING POINT. We'll be talking live with John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky. From Team Obama, we'll be speaking with Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, and campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Plus, Obama's former economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.

First, though, a look at the instant reaction from the debate in the CNN/ORC poll, of debate watchers taken right after the debate, 67 percent say they think Romney won, and 25 percent only thought the President won. CNN's Dana Bash joins us this morning to go over some of the hits and some of the misses. Good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Well, I'm here in New York, so maybe we should talk about what happens, how you get to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice. And is that clearly is what helped the Mitt Romney. He spent a lot of time practicing, really for the past month doing these mock debates. And when it comes to the President, he was rusty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Right out of the gate, it was clear. Mitt Romney came to play.

ROMNEY: The President has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, Rhat a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more. If you will, trickle-down government, would work.

BASH: President Obama sounded a familiar alarm, warning of Romney's "been there, done that" economics.

OBAMA: The approach that Governor Romney is talking about is the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003. And we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years.

BASH: But whether it was health care, jobs, or Medicare, it was Romney who stood out for his aggressive style.

ROMNEY: I just don't know how the President could have come into office facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obama care.

BASH: The President made his points in a slower, more laid-back manner, often looking down, sometimes appearing disengaged. It's not that he didn't try to rip apart Romney's economic plan.

BOLLING: That kind of top-down economics, where folks at the top are doing well so the average person making $3 million bucks is getting a $250,000 tax break, while middle class families are burdened further.

BASH: Romney was determined to go toe to toe.

ROMNEY: But virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate, so if the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I would say, absolutely not.

BASH: The President did get digs in.

ROMNEY: For 18 months, he's been running on this tax plan. And now, five weeks before the election, he's saying that his big, bold idea is never mind.

BASH: But he also showed flashes of the kind of testiness sources in both camps feared from their candidates, except Obama's was directed at the moderator, not Romney.

OBAMA: The last point I'd make, before --

JIM LEHRER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Two minutes is up, sir.

OBAMA: No, I think I had five seconds before you interrupted me, was --

BASH: Romney did have his own awkward moderator moment.

ROMNEY: I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too.

BASH: One of the most surprising parts of the President's performance was what he did not say. No mention of Romney's infamous 47 percent remark, no talk of Bain Capital, nothing about Romney's own taxes. He did play the "Romney is a hypocrite" card when it comes to health care.

OBAMA: The irony is that we've seen this model work really well in Massachusetts because Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model and, as a consequence, people are covered there. It hasn't destroyed jobs.

BASH: Romney, who ran from his Massachusetts health care plan during the GOP primaries, now used it to tack to the middle for the general election.

ROMNEY: I like the way we did it in Massachusetts. I like the fact that in my state, we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did, instead, was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote.

BASH: And Romney's countless hours of rehearsals clearly produced lines like this.

ROMNEY: Mr. President, you're entitled as president to your own airplane and your own house, but not to your own facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Now, you can say what you will about this. Democrats, some of them, at least, are trying to spin that it wasn't as bad as others are saying. But one thing you can say, Soledad, is that this was a very substantive debate. We've had a lot of talk about how these are very important times, but this is a campaign about nothing, but this debate wasn't, and you come away if you watch the whole thing understanding not all the facts and whether they're right, but these are two men with very clearly different philosophies.

O'BRIEN: And they keep saying we each have a very different direction we want to take the country in. This is the first time we've actually had them lay out specifically their plan. There was some fact checking. John was heavily involved in that, and some fixing of the facts. We'll talk more about that later. Dana, thank you very much.

Several more debates, of course, are ahead. Next up is the battle of the number twos. Vice President Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will face off on October 11th in Danville, Kentucky. It's going to be their only debate. October 16th will be the second presidential debate. That will be moderated by our own Candy Crowley in Hempstead, Long Island. And the third and final encounter between President Obama and Governor Romney will take place on October 22 and that one will be in Boca Raton in Florida.

John Berman has a look at some of the other stories that are making news this morning. What you got?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Violence is escalating along the border between Syria and Turkey. Tensions flare along that border as Syrian forces shelled Turkey overnight. Turk forces have been shelling Syria back. Five civilians were killed in a Turkish border town. Three children were among those killed. Syria has apologized for the incident. Government officials in Turkey saying they have no interest in a war with their neighbor.

The FBI turning to Facebook and Twitter to find a wanted terrorist. They believe Boston native Ahmad Abousamra may now be living in Syria. He's wanted for conspiring to help terrorists. The bureau is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

A Philadelphia cop seen punching a woman in a YouTube video, he will be fire. The city's police commissioner says Lieutenant Jonathan Josey will be suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss after he serves that suspension. He punched the woman last weekend during Philadelphia's Puerto Rican parade. The video has been viewed now more than a million times.

Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera celebrating the rarest defeats this morning, a triple crown. He finished the season leading the American league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. The last player to win a triple crown was Boston's Carl Yastrzemski.

The new wild card format setting up a wild finish to baseball's regular season. The New York Yankees, they beat the Boston Red Sox last night 14-2 to clinch the American league east title for the 13th time in 17 years, whoop-di-doo. And the Oakland A's are your improbably American league west champs overcoming a 13 game deficit in late June to win the division with a 12-5 victory over the Texas rangers yesterday. It is playoff time in baseball, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. And my kids were so happy about that. Watching the Yankees game. I'm sorry, you don't root for the Yankees, do you? Which team do you root for?

BERMAN: As I said, "whoop-di-doo."

O'BRIEN: Oh, right, the Red Sox. Sorry. Sorry for mentioning.

Back to our starting point this morning. We showed you the poll of debate watchers who overwhelmingly believe that Mitt Romney won the debate last night. Will those numbers, though, have a lasting impact. This morning from Denver, Martin O'Malley. He's an Obama surrogate. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.

MARTIN O'MALLEY: Thank you, Soledad. Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Last night, in addition to some of that polling that we've just been showing, CNN/ORC did a poll of folks who were watching the debate. And what we saw was a slew of improvements in the polling for government Romney. Who would better handle the deficit? Romney went up 16 percent. Who would handle the economy? Romney gained 12 points over President Obama. Taxes, Romney was ahead by nine points. Health care, Romney was ahead by five points. I would mention, the sampling error is almost five points there. But still, in virtually every single question, it was the Governor Romney who, among people who saw the debate, they felt that he was now ahead in the polls that followed. What do you make of those very devastating numbers for the President?

O'MALLEY: I think that Governor Romney is certainly a skilled debater. And last night he was able to elevate his level of performance. But he did not change the fundamental dynamics of this race, nor did he change some of the policies that actually got us into the economic mess that we have. He embraced, as the President pressed him, and agreed that, in fact, he does want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, and he still skated and danced and tap danced around how it is that he's going to cut tax for millionaires and billionaires without that having an impact on the rest of the budget. And that's still a question that he has to answer.

I thought the President's best moment in the debate was when he contrasted the two economic approaches. President Obama is much more in keeping with President Clinton. It's a balanced approach. And Mitt Romney is still waving around the magic wand that if you cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, somehow that grows jobs rather than deficits, and we know that's not true. So he did have an elevated level of debate. And, fortunately, we have a few more rounds.

O'BRIEN: Well, I'll tell you, I'll use the word skated and danced and tap-danced, but those are not the adjectives that people who watched the debate, frankly, on both sides of the aisle, were using. They felt that Governor Romney was aggressive, assertive, in control, came to play, and sort of the opposite for President Obama. Are you worried that people who did not see the debate, which will be the majority, maybe the majority of the people who will now be voters going to the polls, that this will affect them as well, that, you know, this means a big change in poll numbers, which have of late been favoring the President?

O'MALLEY: I don't believe that you'll see a fundamental change in the dynamics of this race. And I believe the big question that still needs to be answered is Governor Romney's so-called plan that he won't let anyone see about how it is that he can cut taxes and revenues by $4 trillion or $5 trillion, and somehow, tell us to just trust him, because behind door number three, there's a secret plan, he can't tell us about it until after the election is over. I think that was a blank that he was not able to fill in last night.

There were high expectations that he would be specific about that, and instead he skated around it, Soledad. So I think you still have the fundamental challenge here. It's easy for Governor Romney to say, that's not actually in my plan because Governor Romney hasn't really been forthcoming about his plan about what it will mean for middle class families and how he makes up that money without hurting our economy, slowing it, or hurting middle class families.

O'BRIEN: Governor, let me ask Dana Bash who's sitting with me a quick question. I think a lot of people have been pointing out missed opportunities. The 47 percent never mentioned, Bain Capital never mentioned. All these things that were in the ads from the Obama campaign were actually never mentioned. The $716 billion number, which Governor Romney mentioned, was never debunked, and it had been debunked many times before. He didn't bring up the governor's taxes or talk about immigration policies. Big impact, I would think, of those misses in this debate.

BASH: You would think. And that's why listening to the governor talking about skating and dancing around the questions, you might argue that President Obama skated and danced around what he needed to do, because this wasn't just a serious of speeches. This was a debate. They were supposed to engage one another. And I can't imagine that the governor isn't disappointed that the President wasn't more aggressive in in saying, OK, Governor Romney, what are the specifics is? How are you going to reform the tax code?

O'BRIEN: There was a quote from a James Carville, governor, who, of course, is a big Obama supporter, and basically his assessment was, the President was just not sharp. Here's what he said. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I had one overwhelming impression. I did everything I could not to reach it, but I had to reach it. It looked like Romney wanted to be there and President Obama didn't want to be there. He seemed like he was happy to be there, debating, and President Obama gave you the impression that this whole thing was kind of a lot of trouble. The President didn't bring his A-game. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Do you think that's true? And if so, what happened? And is it as simple as a lack of practice, as some have posited?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think this campaign is the product of many days. And this was the first day that was not a disastrous and miserable day for the Romney campaign in many, many weeks.

So, Soledad, I mean, tomorrow, or rather, today is a new day, and everybody wakes up, when we go back for the last 35, 36 days of this campaign. So I think that what you have to look at in the course of a campaign is not any one day or any one performance. I've been in these debates, and always, it seems, that the challenger has an edge in that very first debate. He's on the stage with the incumbent. And so there's always a certain overcoming of the low expectations for the challenger.

But there's still two more rounds coming up in these debates. And most importantly, Governor Romney's economic prescription for what ails us as a country has been proven to fail in the past and we did not hear one new idea about creating jobs. We heard no specifics about how he pays for all of this stuff. He tells us, look, we can all eat cake and lose weight. Trust me, I've got a secret plan behind door number two. That's going to wear old with intelligent voters over the course of these next debates.

O'BRIEN: Governor Martin O'Malley this morning, thank you, sir, for talking with us. We appreciate it.

O'MALLEY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: There'll be another opportunity to see President Obama and Mitt Romney face off. If you missed last night's debate we'll rerun it at 1:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

We're just getting started with our analysis this morning. We'll have Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky will be joining me live. Also, Obama campaign spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, and the President's former economic adviser, Austan Ggoolsbee, will be my guest straight ahead.

And Kitchen Aid doing some serious damage control, apparently tweeted out an offensive joke about the President's grandmother. What they're doing to try to fix that this morning.

And the moment that's gone viral from the debate, Big Bird. The comment from Governor Romney has "Sesame Street" fans enraged. "starting point" is back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALISON KOSIK, CNNMONEY.COM CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Alison Kosik, and I'm Minding your Business. Stock futures in the U.S. are up indicating futures will open higher this morning. We are waiting on a report on unemployment claims that comes out about 8:30 eastern. It's expected to show the number of first time claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, more evidence of weakness in the jobs market.

A new report shows that people are saving more and borrowing less to pay down credit card debt. Plus, credit card delinquencies are at their lowest level in 11 years. The report from the American Bankers Association says only 2.93 percent of bank card accounts were 30 days or more overdue in the second quarter.

And home appliance maker Kitchen Aid is apologizing this morning for a political tweet they sent out during the debate last night. The tweet about the President's grandmother read -- look at this, "Obama's grandmother even knew it was going to be bad. She died three days before he became president." The company wrote on Twitter, "Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand's opinion." the tweet has since been removed. A big oops, huh, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: It was somebody on the Twitter team for Kitchen Aid who tweeted that from the company handle instead of their own personal handle.

KOSIK: It's amazing how even somebody who may work for Kitchen Aid feels like they can hide behind the anonymity of Twitter. And I see this every day. I've got a Twitter account. Everybody hides behind the anonymity and say whatever they want, even the hateful stuff.

O'BRIEN: Senior director Cynthia Soledad said, "We're deeply to President Obama and the Twitter community for this error." No relation.

A whopping two-thirds of the people who were watching the debate last night said they felt that Mitt Romney won the debate, 42 points above President Obama and the first time a candidate has pulled over 60 percent since this particular question was asked in polling starting back in the 1984. It was largely due, that sense of winning, to attacks like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: And $1 trillion deficits for the last four years. The President has put in place as much public debate, almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined. And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is one out of six people in poverty. The proof of that is we've gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps.

You're entitled as president to your own airplane and your own house, but not to your own facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Mark McKinnon was a former contributor for "The Daily Beast," the 2008 campaign adviser. Thanks for talking with us.

MARK MCKINNON, "THE DAILY BEAST": Good morning. O'BRIEN: Last time we spoke, you said this. "I thought the debates would be an opportunity" -- oh, we were talking about your column from the daily beast and this is what you had written in your column. "I thought the debates would be an opportunity, but he" -- you're talking about Mitt Romney here, "has dug his hole so deeply now, I don't know if he can pull himself out. Does he get up and say, I was just kidding. I don't see half of America as victims. I just needed to raise some money and I got a little carried away talking to the 1 percent." How would you write that now?

MCKINNON: Well, fortunately, he didn't even get asked that question about the 47 percent. The fun thing for all of us watching, covering this race, is it's interesting once again. And I'm struck by the polling numbers. I've never seen a debate as decisive as the one last night.

So we all knew that it had to be -- he had to hit it out of the park, and he hit it out of the park. He really did. And it reminds me of 2000. I've talked about that before. I said we were down three going into the debates, and as a result the debates, President Bush came out on top. But it also reminded me of 2004 when President Bush was the incumbent president and had a terrible performance, which was very much like President Obama's. And it's very hard for an incumbent president to go in against a challenger and be attacked, and President Obama showed it last night.

O'BRIEN: Yes, if you look at some of these numbers, I'm going to look at them right now. As you say, it was decisive, 67 percent in polling picked Mitt Romney as a winner, Obama at 25 percent. When they asked debate watchers, did Romney do better or worse than expected, 82 percent said he did better. When asked, who seemed to be a stronger leader, it was Mitt Romney at 58 percent. He also won when it was asked about who was more likable, Mitt Romney came in at 46 percent to Obama's 45 percent.

So do all of these numbers translate specifically into closing that gap for Mitt Romney, and maybe closing the gap in these key swing states, which everyone keeps talks about, will be where those critical voters are?

MCKINNON: No question that it will. I mean, there was a little bit of tightening before the debate and as I said, in my professional career in politics of 30 years, I've never seen a debate performance this decisive. It's absolutely going to have an impact. There were lots of people watching who really didn't know Mitt Romney. They know Obama, but they just heard a lot about Mitt Romney. And they saw a completely different person last night. They saw a guy in control, a guy who shared their values, a guy that they could trust. You know, all those sorts of attributes that people are looking for in a president, they saw in Mitt Romney last night.

BERMAN: Hey, Mark, it's John Berman here. As you said, it does appear the results of this debate were very decisive, wide agreement on that. But if there's some silver lining for the Obama team, I've re-watched this debate almost three times since last night, playing again and again and again. There's not one awful moment for Barack Obama. There's not one defining sound bite for Mitt Romney that's being replayed, that people who missed the debate will see, oh, my gosh, that's what he's talking about, he won. I think what people might be hearing today is just the media saying Romney won big. But is there a moment that says that for itself?

MCKINNON: You know, you're right, John, there's not a standout moment that is going to be replayed by the press, but what is being replayed by the press is there was an absolute dominating performance. And that's going to seep into the water well. And people are going to be talking about it and their going to be saying, you know, my god, this guy who we were writing off a couple of weeks ago is suddenly back in the hunt. You know, he took on the President and demolished him. Not even a close call. I mean, how many debates have we seen, and it's so temporary that you really see somebody have an outstanding performance like this where they really dominate. It just never happens. And we saw it last night. So I think it's absolutely going to have an impact and tighten this race up.

O'BRIEN: Mark McKinnon, always nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it.

MCKINNON: You bet, thanks.

O'BRIEN: While the debate was unfolding, Americans were Googling. Between 8:45 and 10:45 p.m., the number one Google search was Simpson/Bowles, number two, Dodd/Frank, number three was, "Who is winning the debate?" And number four was "Big Bird. Why Big Bird? Because of this particular moment in the debate. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird, I actually like you too. But I'm not going to keep spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Mentions of Big Bird spiked by almost 800,000 percent after that and even inspired a new Twitter account of Big Bird with a "Will Work for Food" sign.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, both candidates threw out a lot of numbers last night. But were those numbers accurate? John Berman is fact checking both sides for us coming up next. The STARTING POINT team is coming in to talk about that. We're back in just a moment. Hey, guys. Good morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our team joining us this morning, Bret O'Donnell is a presidential campaign debate adviser. Roland martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin," and Will Cain is a columnist for the blaze.com.

Welcome, guys. It's nice to have you with us. Everybody tired from staying up late and watching the debate?

ROLAND MARTIN, HOST, "WASHINGTON WATCH WITH ROLAND MARTIN": Nope, ready to roll.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate that. There were lots of numbers tossed around during the presidential debate. John Berman's got a little list of us what was true, what was not quite true, and what was out and out false.

BERMAN: Let's look at one of the big ones that came up right in the beginning of the debate. The issue of tax cuts. We knew this was going to be a big issue and it dominated the debate.

President Obama went on the attack saying Mitt Romney is pushing a huge tax cut for the rich.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Governor Romney's central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts. That's another $1 trillion. And $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn't asked more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now let's look at the facts here. Mitt Romney does propose an across the board 20 percent tax cut and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says under that plan, taxes on the wealthiest Americans would be reduced by $5 trillion initially.

But Mitt Romney says he would offset these cuts by closing some loopholes and reducing deductions and this would reduce the tax cut on the wealthy here.

So if Mitt Romney follows through with that, our verdict here is that the President's claim that Romney would cut the wealthy taxes by $5 trillion is false.

But stay tuned because there's more to the story when we deal with the deficit here because Mitt Romney was asked time and time again how he would pay for his tax cut. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My number one principle is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I won't put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That's part one.

So there's no economist can say, Mitt Romney's tax plan adds $5 trillion if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan. My plan is not to put in place any tax cut that will add to the deficit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The problem is, all we have here is his word, because Mitt Romney really has not really laid out any specifics for how he would pay for his tax cut. All he says is closing loopholes or reducing deductions, but he hasn't said which one or how many.

So the verdict here is simply incomplete. We just can't know what will happen there. Finally, there was one subject we thought may have been a missed opportunity for Barack Obama, Medicare, a big topic of discussion for some time.

Mitt Romney made the claim like he has repeatedly that President Obama is looking to make cuts that affect people in the program today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: What I support is no change for current retirees and near retirees to Medicare and the President supports taking $716 billion out of that program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And Mitt Romney also said, flat-out, that President Obama wants to cut $716 billion from Medicare. This one's been checked and checked again. What President Obama has proposed are not cuts to Medicare.

Medicare will still grow. It will just grow more slowly. A reduction in growth of $716 billion, but also, that money is coming from insurers and providers, not beneficiaries here. So the verdict here, with the language Mitt Romney uses, is simply that statement is false.

O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting? You didn't really hear that in the debate, right? Normally, or in past debates, someone will say, that's just not true.

Or even the moderator will step in and call out and reframe a question, and some of that was the format, but also, there was just a lackluster energy or lack of energy in the debate.

BRETT O'DONNELL, PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN DEBATE ADVISER: The president didn't want to take anything to Mitt Romney. He let him stay on offense the entire night.

It was almost like the President went in, you know, you watch a team get up in football, and then they go into the prevent defense. And I've always said, that's a terrible thing because that doesn't prevent anything. And the team ends up losing and that's what happened last night.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think there were moments where there was an attempt to challenge, but they didn't seem heartfelt. It didn't seem like the President for that matter was all in on the challenge.

John, I think your fact check is very fair, specifically on Mitt Romney's tax claims. It's not misleading. The Tax Policy Center analysis simply is old.

They make many assumptions and since then, they've revisited many of those assumptions and said, our analysis is incomplete so President Obama could --

O'BRIEN: But some of the reason it's incomplete, right, is because --

CAIN: Because we don't know Mitt Romney's assumptions --

O'BRIEN: And because the plan is sort of like, and things are going to grow, and if you have more people paying taxes, it grows.

CAIN: That's why it's very fair. We don't know Mitt Romney's assumptions. He has left that incomplete, but the President, I don't know why, didn't ask about that.

MARTIN: When you look at some of the other issues, Mitt Romney stands there and talks about Dodd/Frank and the banks being too big to fail. I was waiting for the President to say, Mitt Romney, do you support reinstating Glass-Steagall?

I do, your vice presidential pick does? So will that make the banks smaller? So, again, in a debate, you can't depend on Jim Lehrer to do your job. As we say in a fight, baby, if you're going to swing, swing.

O'BRIEN: Is that what we say in a fight?

MARTIN: Right. When it's time to fight, you've got to swing.

O'DONNELL: The president didn't even have his gloves on last night. It's almost like he didn't know the facts -- he didn't know to make the Glass-Steagall argument.

MARTIN: Actually, look, he does know facts, but again, it's a question of whether or not you want to engage in that way. He has to, and I think this morning, he realizes it.

O'BRIEN: Guess what, we have 90 more minutes to talk about all of this. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a big burning question during the debate was about the size of government.

It's a theme that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul likes to talk about. He's got a new book out called "government bullies." He'll join us to talk about that, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Mitt Romney and President Obama resumed their attacks this morning from the campaign trail. CNN's Dan Lothian is live for us in Denver with some White House reaction to the debate last night. Good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. First of all, what you're hearing from the Obama campaign is that a mission that in fact Governor Romney did have a strong performance last night.

But they're going after the substance, pointing to what they say are flaws and distortions in his policies, and overall, they don't believe that the performance by the President last night and the performance by Governor Romney will in any way shift this race dramatically.

We'll have to wait and see. I mean, we'll be watching in key battleground states like Ohio or even here in Colorado, taking a look at the polling over the coming days to see if, in fact, things will change.

But the bottom line for the campaign is they believe that the President came in here and did what he set out to do, which is to have a conversation with the American people. The problem for the campaign is that Governor Romney came in here to have more than a conversation.

He challenged the President. He did not back down. And according to that poll, that CNN/ORC poll, most voters believe that, in fact, he did win last night -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian for us this morning. He is Denver. Thanks, Dan.

I want to get to Senator Rand Paul. He is a Republican from Kentucky who's supporting Mitt Romney. He has a new book out. It's called "Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused and Imprisoned by the Feds." I was almost afraid to open it when I started reading it.

SENATOR RAND PAUL, AUTHOR, "GOVERNMENT BULLIES": It's good.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the debate last night. I know you had the option of going to the Yankees game with your son or watching the debate and you chose --

PAUL: What I can tell you for certain is that the Yankees kicked butt last night.

O'BRIEN: And if you look at the poll numbers, I think some people would say, Governor Romney as well.

PAUL: Governor Romney didn't need me last night. He did great. I have seen some of the highlights and I was pretty impressed with his performance.

O'BRIEN: We heard Dan Lothian report just a moment ago, talking about the White House spin if you will this morning. They are saying, it's not going to shift the race dramatically. Do you agree that sort of one-night performance in a debate, to play it up as being a game changer is not correct?

PAUL: Well about 90 percent to 95 percent of Americans have decided. There's about 5 percent less, so nothing really changes dramatically. But you're trying to shift the 4, 5, 6, 7 percent of the vote that might shift at this point.

I think most everybody else is pretty much going to set on where they're going to go. So you are shooting for a small amount of people, some in the middle. But interestingly, people are always talking about the middle. There are people on both extremes. Remember when Ralph Nader takes votes, libertarians take votes. So really they need to be worried also about people on either side of the spectrum as well.

O'BRIEN: So you think it might be more open than just that 5 percent we always talk about?

PAUL: It's still a pretty small number.

BASH: Senator, I watch you every day on Capitol Hill trying to get people to give specifics about what they're going to really do to reduce the deficit.

And Mitt Romney is not giving specifics on what he's going to do, specifically, forming tax code. Does he need to do that? Do a better job of that?

PAUL: In his defense, what I would say is tax code is enormously complicated, so you do have to talk somewhat in generalities. He wants to make the rates lower. He wants to make the tax code simpler, and he is for having less deductions or cuts.

But what I would say both of them missed last night this, when everybody's like, can you pay for it, will you add to the debt, he has a general philosophy that he's not going to add to the debt with tax cuts. But another way not to add to the debt, why not cut spending?

O'BRIEN: Let's dig into that a little bit more. You would say, you wouldn't vote for any plan, a Republican or a Democratic plan that doesn't balance the budget. And what you're certainly, in that specific example, we're nowhere close to enough of a definite plan to be able to --

PAUL: But it will be hashed out over many months. Tax reform will be an enormous bill and an enormous package. And I will say, when I'm part of the process, I'm not going to vote for it if it adds trillions of dollars to the deficit.

But there are a couple of ways to do it. You can get rid of deductions, and I am for getting rid of deductions. And if there are not deductions, and you say it's a good idea to spur the economy, which I think it is.

When the economy grew at 5 and 6 percent under Reagan, it's because we did significant tax reductions of the upper class. We went from a tax rate of 70 when Reagan came in to 50, and we went from 50 to 28 and the economy grew like gangbusters. That's what we need again.

MARTIN: Senator, last night President Obama reminded Mitt Romney of what he said in the debates. He said, if you have ten cuts for one revenue increase, you still wouldn't support that.

Isn't that part of the problem, when you have Republicans who say, I won't support any type of revenue increase and you won't even accept any cuts? That makes no sense. PAUL: Well, I think everybody says there has to be some sort of compromise. And the narrative is that we won't compromise. I think we actually do compromise all the time.

We compromise to raise military spending and to raise domestic welfare spending. What I would say is the compromise is not to raise taxes. The compromise is reduce military spending and reduce domestic spending. I think I've got some work even on my side on that. But I think the American public's ready for it.

O'BRIEN: The book is a series of stories of how people were, in many cases, like horribly maltreated by certain government entities and you rage against TSA and against the FDA and the EPA. So when you look at the Governor Romney and you look at President Obama, you have taken exception to some of Governor Romney's plans. You have taken exception to the President east plans. Who do you think, you know, supports what you would say in this book?

PAUL: When I think of what's going on right now, I think of the great depression. I don't think it's as bad as the great depression, but I think it could be. The great depression got worse and then it stabilized and then it got worse again for another five or six years.

The reason it got worse, and this is from Amity Sclais, "the Forgotten Man," a book about the great depression, she says that government forgot and the depression got worse and worse and worse. We've got to understand those are bad policies.

But I think businesses right now are terrified of the President. So my book is about regulations, but I think it makes a big difference whether or not you have a president simply who is friendly to business, in a way that he encourages business to invest. And businessmen across the country are terrified.

O'BRIEN: Some people would say a bailout of the auto industry was friendly to business. A bailout of the banks was friendly to business --

PAUL: Friendly to failed businesses, businesses that should have gone under new ownership.

CAIN: I want to ask Senator Paul one question. You point out during the Reagan years that tax rates were lower. But by lowering taxes on low-income earners, you help the economy. Did it bother you last night to hear Mitt Romney talk about the middle class. I don't want to lower taxes on the higher income earners. I want to just focus on the middle class.

PAUL: I think everybody makes mistakes in that, who pays the tax isn't so much important. It's where the money goes. Should the money stay with the people who earned it or should it stay in the state of Ohio or should it go to Washington?

Where is money most efficiently spent and can you recover an economy by hiring more government workers? Can you hire 100,000 government workers and say, we're going to be better? Someone has to pay for their salaries. Government workers aren't bad people --

O'BRIEN: Like class division? Does that bother you?

PAUL: It always does. I live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Should you leave the money in Bowling Green, Kentucky, or send it to Washington? Where is it most efficiently spent?

And Friedman had best when Friedman said, nobody spends somebody else's money as well as they spend their own. So leave it with the people whose money it really is, and the economy will grow again. That's what we need.

O'BRIEN: Senator Rand Paul, the book is called "Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused, And Imprisoned By The Feds." It's nice to have you with us. Great to see you. Appreciate your time.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a deadly meningitis outbreak now spreads. We'll tell you just how people and states are now infected and where doctors think the whole entire thing began.

And we told you about this yesterday, a news anchor who was told in an e-mail she was a bad role model because she was fat. We'll talk to her, Jennifer Livingston, live in our next hour, when she decided to take on her bully on live TV. That's in a moment. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. A deadly meningitis outbreak has now spread to five states. Four people are dead. It started in Tennessee, but now dozens are infected. More cases are expected.

It's all believed to have stemmed from a steroid injection to the spine, which was contaminated with a fungus. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has the latest for us. Elizabeth, this is horrible sounding.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is. I think there's a lot of confusion here, Soledad. This disease is not, in this case, contagious. It's not spreading person to person.

Everyone who is sick had an injection into their spine for back pain and it seems that that drug was infected with fungus. That's how they got meningitis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and nervous system.

This is a terrible disease, very difficult to treat. The drugs we do have, have toxic side effects. This disease has a relatively high mortality rate.

Soledad, what makes this even worse is these people didn't just breathe in fungus, which is usually the cause of this disease. It was injected directly into their central nervous system, which makes it even harder to treat.

O'BRIEN: My gosh, so the investigation, obviously, must turn to how the contamination happened with that injection and how it was able to spread across all these states.

COHEN: Right. So this one company in Massachusetts, the New England Compounding Company, they have recalled, voluntarily recalled three lots of this drug. So the investigation will center there. You want to know what happened in the manufacturing system that the fungus got in there.

O'BRIEN: What happens now to those folks that are infected now that they know it's an injection, they have sort of an idea of where it's coming from, are they in better shape and have a better possibility of survival than, obviously, all those folks who died?

COHEN: Right. So the first thing with this kind of disease, you want to catch it as early as possible. Now if someone has a headache and fever and they go to the doctor, the doctor should know to ask, did you just have an epidural injection?

Maybe that's what's going on here. That's an important piece of information. And what they do is they treat it with IV anti-fungal medications as well as oral medications.

But these drugs can take a long time to work and this isn't sort of a take two aspirin and call me in the morning thing. It takes a long time to treat.

O'BRIEN: Elizabeth Cohen with an update on that story we've been following for a couple of days. Elizabeth, thank you. Appreciate it. Got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. A couple of stories we're looking at this morning. The FBI is not confirming reports that Mexican troops arrested two men suspected in the deadly shooting of a U.S. border patrol agent in Arizona.

Nicholas Ivy was shot and killed Tuesday while responding to a tripping ground sensor. A second agent was wounded in the attack, but he is now out of the hospital.

Some sex offenders in California suing for the right to decorate their homes for Halloween. The suit was filed last week on in Simi Valley on behalf of five registered sex offenders who wants to do away with the ordinance to keep them from decorating or giving out treats.

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting conundrum, isn't it?

BERMAN: I've seen it happened out here in Westchester County before and other places around here. From time to time, the story does come up.

O'BRIEN: Obviously, you don't want some kind of convicted sex offender to have children around their home and yet I wonder if not decorating their home is infringing on some rights. All right, John, thank you. Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, standing up to shaming when local news anchor Jennifer Livingston got an e-mail from a viewer who attacked her weight, said she was fat.

She fought back live on TV. We're going to talk to her this morning about what pushed her to do what she did. Also more insight and more analysis of the very first presidential debate, President Obama's traveling secretary will be joining us along with Arizona secretary -- Senator John McCain. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

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