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Mitt Romney Walks Back Comments on 47 Percent of Americans; Presidential Debate Assessed; Romney Back Tracks On 47 Percent; Deadly Meningitis Outbreak Spreads; Oil Sheen Surfaces In Gulf Of Mexico; Washington Wildfire; Early Snow In Colorado; Manson Killer Parole; New Bin Laden Raid Film; Obama Trying To Rebound From Debate; Fighting For GOP Support

Aired October 5, 2012 - 07:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our "Starting Point," Mitt Romney says he was completely wrong.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Forty-seven percent who are with him, who believe that they are victims, these people who pay no income tax. And they will vote for this president no matter what.


O'BRIEN: A leaked videotape, a stunning gaffe. Now, a recharged Mitt Romney is trying to repair the damage. Could it hurt him more?

A rare meningitis outbreak and it's spreading. Twenty-three states now at risk. Five people are dead. Health officials alerting doctors and hospitals to check their drug supply.

Gas prices suddenly skyrocketing, $3 a gallon, $4, what about $6? Gas stations are beginning to shut down. Is a gas shortage headed our way?

It's Friday, October 5th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to Friday. Our "Starting Point" this morning is a bit of an about-face for Mitt Romney. New this morning, the GOP candidate is walking back those controversial remarks about the 47 percent. Now, he saying he was, quote, "completely wrong". Listen.


ROMNEY: Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands of speeches and question is and answers sessions, now and then you will say something that doesn't come out right. In this case I said something that's just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent. And that's been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent. When I become president it will be about helping the 100 percent.


O'BRIEN: White House correspondent Brianna Keilar joins from us Washington, D.C., this morning. I thought it was interesting. He has just come off of a great debate performance and his campaign is completely rejuvenated. And now in a way it is like we are circling back to the 47 percent which, frankly the President didn't even bring up in that debate. What do you make of that?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know what's interesting is according to "The New York Times," aides say Romney wanted to correct the record during the debate but bit Obama didn't bring it up so he couldn't. This is something he really wanted to distance himself from, Soledad, because it has been seen as the source of a lot of problems for Mitt Romney in the last month. We saw polls widen between President Obama and Mitt Romney especially in key battleground states. But make no mistake the Obama campaign is not going to let him get away completely with this reversal. They have been running campaign ads with his own words in the fund-raiser and I think we are going to see them continue to hit him on the 47 percent and say you know what, this is what we think he really meant.

O'BRIEN: And there's also conversations about an Obama flip-flop as well. Tell me about that.

KEILAR: This is kind of a flip-flop, I would say, on enthusiasm or tone. I think whether we were watching President Obama on Wednesday, it was very much a passive President Obama. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting, having been object the campaign trail with President Obama. He campaigned yesterday in Denver in Wisconsin and really fired up and really calling Mitt Romney on what he saw was of his inconsistencies during the debate. The problem is 67 million-plus people watched that debate. That was really the place where he needed to call Mitt Romney out. I guarantee you not that many people saw his comments from yesterday. Even close to the dab.

O'BRIEN: Nowhere near that amount. Brianna Keilar, let me ask you a quick question about the jobs numbers. We are expecting those at 8:30. It might be the most watched job numbers before the election, I would guess.

KEILAR: That's right. We are watching them and remember they also come out that Friday before the election. So we will be watching that as well. This is number two and then number one will be right before the election. We are not expecting this to be good for President Obama. These aren't expected to be great jobs numbers. But it is really unclear how good they would be for Mitt Romney. If they are significantly worse than expected, then obviously that's going to play to Mitt Romney's favor.

The Obama campaign, as they said all along, Soledad, don't look at the individual number. Look at the trajectory and if you look at job numbers as a whole over the last years, things are heading in the right direction, but not fast enough. Other thing, remember, pay attention to the battleground states because you look at places like Ohio, unemployment there is about one percentage point below the national average. And you are seeing President Obama do pretty well in the polls considering. So we will be keeping an eye there, too.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Brianna, appreciate it.

Ahead this morning, the Romney campaign is going to weigh in. We are speaking with Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey. We want to get John Berman to update us on today's top stories.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. People in almost half of the states in the country now at risk of the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis. At least five people are dead, 35 people infected in six states. The steroid medication linked to the outbreak was sent to 23 states. More infections are still possible. That steroid which is typically used to treat back pain is injected into patients' spines. In these cases they were contaminated with the fungus. The company that made the medication has voluntarily recalled it.

Thousands of air travelers could be grounded today, a problem with loose seats forcing American airlines to cancel more flights and pull more planes out of service this morning. And 48 Boeing 757s have been called in for maintenance. So far nearly 100 flights have idle. Here is the problem. It is called a seat lock plunger. They believe it caused seats to come loose on three different flights. The airline is blaming poor design and spilled coffee and soda. They say that may cause the seats to come unhinged.

An American tourist opens fire at an Israel hotel in the resort city of Eilat. At least one person is dead. Initial reports say the gunman grabbed the security guard's weapon and shot a hotel worker and barricaded himself in the hotel. Later the gunman was killed.

Three weeks later U.S. special operations forces are now in Libya helping gather intel on militants who were allegedly involved in the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans. Military officials tell CNN that includes intercepting communications, analyzing drone images, and one on one interviews with people who have information. The military is also providing security for an FBI team that's now on the ground.

The first two weeks of the national hockey season now officially on ice, canceled. The league canceled regular season games through October 24 because of the player lockout. Negotiations between the NFL and the players union are stalled on a new labor contract.

Tonight two wild card matchups in baseball. It is a new one and done format where the winner moves on and loser goes home. In the American league, it's the surprising Baltimore Orioles that made the Yankees sweat a little and will take on the rangers and Josh Hamilton in Arlington. The first pitch is at 8:37 p.m. eastern. In the National League, it is the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals facing the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. Start time is 5:07 eastern.

A golden anniversary for the spy with the Midas touch.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Bond, I suppose you wouldn't care to --


BERMAN: Sean Connery, the original James Bond in "Dr. No." It premiered 50 years ago today. Season write pictures and 20th century FOX are celebrating global James bond day with events around the world, "sky fall," the 23rd bond feature will hit theaters in just a few weeks.

O'BRIEN: I had a crush on Sean Connery.

BERMAN: Your favorite bond?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I had a couple of favorite bonds. I think Daniel Craig is terrific. Sean Connery, he was a handsome man.

We return to our top story this morning. Mitt Romney now saying he was completely wrong. That's a quote for his remarks about the 47 percent who don't pay income tax. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not stepping away from anything you said in your video, are you not backing away from it? Do you worry you offended this 47 percent who you mentioned?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, it is not elegantly stated. Let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question and I was -- thousands of speeches and question and answer sessions. Now and then you are going to say something that doesn't come out right. In this case I said something that's just completely wrong. I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent.


O'BRIEN: So that first club was with what Governor Romney said and what was a hastily called press conference after the tape was released. That second clip was what we heard yesterday from Governor Romney, now saying completely wrong.

Let's get to Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey, a Romney campaign surrogate and chairman of the GOP doctors caucus. Nice to see you, sir. We are having technical difficulties. We will get to him as soon as we can fix those. Let me ask you a question, John, because you spent a lot of time on the campaign trail. I was surprised when Governor Romney had these comments, I think he was talking to Sean Hannity last night. Because it felt like all he should be talking about is by the way, did you see me in the debate? And to bring up something that took -- was a very difficult for the campaign seemed like an unwise twist or turn.

BERMAN: It did not come up with the debate which was shocking enough. Why let it be a topic of discussion in an interview, friendly interview, if we can say that with FOX News in what was more remarkable it was clear evolution. If you look at how his answer has changed over time, this is a vastly different answer he gave right away.

O'BRIEN: When you say "evolution," you mean what?

BERMAN: I mean his story really clanged. At first he said it was inelegant, but he stands by the comments. Last night he said those comments are completely wrong. What's fascinating to me is he clearly had a prepared answer that he was prepared to give in the debate on Wednesday night if President Obama brought that up. Why is he bringing it up to Sean Hannity last night? If he likes his response so much why not wait until the second debate?

O'BRIEN: It seems to me to -- I felt it pulled focus from what was a great debate, today the story would be the number of people who watched that debate, and it is a record, 67 million people. So talk about delivering at a moment when you need to deliver. It was really Governor Romney who did that and not the President who did that. And now lot of the conversation is like -- are you -- were you just being dishonest first time you said it? Are you being dishonest the second time?

BERMAN: I used the word "evolution." That's one of the criticisms. Not that will are many. One is he's getting is the policies he laid out in the debate are actually quite different than what he has been talking about on the stump in general for the last several month.

O'BRIEN: We have a chance to talk to Phil Gingrey. Is this the etch- a-sketch moment when the Romney spokesman Erick Fehrnstrom said that on our air, an etch-a-sketch moment. Maybe this is what we are seeing, the etch-a-sketch moment.

But first we have a lot to get to. I want to tell you what's ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. Big Bird fans kind of in a frenzy, I think that's fair to say, over the comments from Governor Romney during that debate that he would cut funding from PBS. Lavar Burton of "Reading Rainbow" fame says that it outraged him as well. He will join us to talk about that straight ahead.

Plus A high-schooler ridiculed for wearing a Mitt Romney t-shirt to school. We will tell you what happened there. It is our Get Real this morning. Christine will take a look at what's coming up in bus.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A little thing called the September jobs report.

O'BRIEN: Oh, that.

ROMANS: It could be pretty important. Will it sway the upcoming presidential election? Plus, we have gotten used to $3 a gallon, $4. How about $6? It is not pain at the pump. It is agony. Details next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business. On jobs day the September jobs report releases at 8:30 a.m. eastern. Economists surveyed by CNN Money expect it to show sluggish jobs growth, 110,000 jobs added in the month and an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. Only one more jobs report after this one before Election Day. U.S. stock futures are up slightly ahead of this report.

Some gas stations forced to shut down as gas prices soar to a shocking level in California. AAA says the average price for a gallon of regular gas has hit $4.48 and it is above $5 in some parts of the state. The spike due to a fuel shortage as a result of refinery and pipeline outages.

I will take that commute. About 13.4 million Americans are now working from home. That's up 41 percent in the past 10 years. Yes. According to the Census Bureau this is, you know, a couple of things driving the trend. High-speed internet access and services like Skype. Also, because, frankly, Soledad, some people are not finding a job out there, getting in the car and going to an office. They are trying to make work from are home opportunities.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. That's a huge increase. I'm surprised by that. OK, thank you.

President Obama and Mitt Romney may be back on the campaign ultra today but there is one moment from the debate that people are still talking about. This would be it.


ROMNEY: I will eliminate all programs by this test if they don't pass it. Is the program so critical that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? If not I will get rid of it. Obamacare is on my list. I use that term with all respect.

OBAMA: I like it.

ROMNEY: OK, good. So I get rid of that. I'm sorry, Jim. I will stop the subsidy to PBS and stop other things. I like PBS. I love big bird. I actually like you, too. But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.


O'BRIEN: That remark about stopping funding of big bird - "I like Big Bird." Social media mentions big bird went up 800,000 percent.

BERMAN: That's outside the margin of error.


O'BRIEN: -- on Facebook afterward. PBS lovers, "Sesame Street" lovers were very, very angry including actor Lavar Burton. He hosted "Reading Rainbow." Thanks for talking with us. The CEO of PBS said that nearly fell off the couch while watching the debate and heard that particular part of the debate. What was your reaction? Did you have the same reaction?

LAVAR BURTON, ACTOR: I was outraged. I couldn't believe the man actually fixed his mouth to say that. I interpret it as an attack on children. It is an attack on children and attack on children who come from disenfranchised, you know, background. PBS is the nation's largest classroom. It guarantees equal access to the wonderfulness that PBS has provided for almost 50 years in this country. And to callously, blatantly, say that it is on the agenda to cut is just -- it is not OK, because, look, clearly this candidate -- and I don't believe that Mitt Romney is a bad guy. But I do believe that he believes what he said the other night. And I believe that his comment about the 47 percent is actually what he believes.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, because Mitt Romney would say -- if you listened to the last part chunk he said I'm not going to keep spending money to borrow money to pay for it. And when I spoke to Sherry Westin before the debate, she said that sometimes people confuse funding for PBS and "Sesame Street." I will play a little bit of what she told me.


SHERRY WESTIN: A "Sesame Street" workshop receives very little funding, through corporate underwriting, sponsorship. Quite frankly, you know, you can debate whether or not there should be funding of public broadcasting but when they always tout out big bird and say we will kill big bird that's misleading, because "Sesame Street" will be here.

O'BRIEN: Big bird lives.

WESTIN: Big bird lives on.


O'BRIEN: What is the argument for funding public broadcasting? One argument I would think it is such a tiny percentage of the federal budget conversations about cutting it does not save you money and bring money back into the budget. Why do you think that PBS should not be on the cutting room floor or whatever? Cutting table? Whatever the phrase is.

BURTON: Again, goes back for me to the issue of access. It is -- it is a commercial free environment and it is -- it is -- universally accessible to anyone with a television, which is everyone in this country. And if you can't afford cable, if you can't afford premium content, you can rely on the public broadcasting service.

Is PBS perfect? No. Have they provided through their children's programming for almost 50 years some of the finest educational content worldwide for our nation's children? Absolutely. Does it deserve to be on the chopping block? O'BRIEN: That's the word I was looking for, "chopping block." Thank you for helping me out.

BURTON: The chopping block. Here is -- here's something I would like to point out, Soledad. I know in this current economic climate we have to make different choices. However, I was raised by a woman whose philosophy it was to give her children the best education she could not afford. Do you understand what I'm saying?

O'BRIEN: There is value in the free.

BURTON: Not only is there value in the free, we have to make the investment in our children if we expect for them to pay off on that investment through their realizing their most full potential. So there are places where you can cut. There are places that you just don't cut because it is not right.

O'BRIEN: For you that would be PBS. Lavar Burton, of course, was host and producer of "Reading Rainbow." Thank you for talking with us this morning.

BURTON: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a short break. You heard Mitt Romney backtracking on the 47 percent remark. He says now that he was completely wrong. Could that backfire? We will talk to Romney supporter Congressman Phil Gingrey. That's up next. We're back in a moment.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A quick look at our top stories this morning. A University of Chicano paleontologist said he identified fossils from one of the smallest dinosaurs to walk the earth more than 200 million years ago. This newly discovered species had a body less than two feet long and no bigger than a cat.

Check out this image from 200 miles above the surface of mars. People speculating they are anything from sunbathing colonies of spiders to giant alien worms. These pictures were taken by the Mars reconnaissance orbiter a couple of years ago. Most scientists say they are geysers of CO2 exploding from underneath the planet's surface

O'BRIEN: Maybe we will never know.

Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning -- everybody is a little happy. Richard Socarides is way down the end in what we call the honorary Will Cain seat. Margaret Hoover is with us. Charles Blow is with us, a "New York Times" columnist. Nice to see you all this morning. The big news this morning, of course, Mitt Romney saying he was completely wrong for his remarks about the 47 percent who don't pay income tax. Let's listen to what he said yesterday.


ROMNEY: Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands, of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you will say something that doesn't come out right. In this case I said something that's completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent.


O'BRIEN: Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey joins us this morning. What was your reaction to hearing that clip which was the governor's interview with Sean Hannity last night?

REP. PHIL GINGREY, (R) GEORGIA: Soledad, exactly right. And he cares about the 100 percent. I think he showed that in the debate a couple of nights ago, the real deal, the sincere, the caring, the compassionate, the strong Mitt Romney. And so I think his -- remark was exactly right to walk back and admitted he made a mistake. And -- the fact that he cares about 100 percent, that's the bottom line.

O'BRIEN: Some people might say well, that's just politically expedient. If you look at the history of that remark, back on September 17 in what was a hastily called press conference, he didn't say "I made a mistake, I'm walking back that remark. I was completely wrong." He said this. Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are not stepping away anything in this video, not backing away from it? And do you worry you offended the 47 percent you mentioned?

ROMNEY: It is not elegantly stated. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question and I'm sure I can state it more clearly and in a more effective way.


O'BRIEN: So he said it was of the cuff and it was sort of inelegantly stated. The next day when he was talking to -- I think Neil Cavuto, he said I meant what I said and he said this. Let's play that.


ROMNEY: This is a message I'm carrying day in ask day out and will carry over the coming months, which is this is a decision about the course of America and where we're going to head.


O'BRIEN: So today he is admitting he was wrong in your words. Isn't that just being a flip-flopper?

GINGREY: I don't think so at all. I think he got it right when he spoke with Sean Hannity last night when he said "I care about 100 percent of the people." It doesn't matter what income level they are at. And in particular, I care very strongly about the middle class. And he made that point during the debate over and over again.

O'BRIEN: He surely did.

GINGREY: Much to Obama's dismay.

O'BRIEN: I think you are right about that. My point would be that is completely contradictory to what he said the day after the original remark which was, basically, I meant what I said. This is a message I'm caring day in and day out and will carry over the coming months. One of those has to be true. Either what he said on the 18th or what he said yesterday. Isn't that the definition of a flip-flop?

GINGREY: I think what he said yesterday, Soledad, was 100 percent true.

O'BRIEN: So President Obama said that a different Mitt Romney showed up at the debate. Of course, he is trying to spin, you know, his not great performance in the debate or poor performance. Here is what he said. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whoever it was that was on stage last night doesn't want to be held accountable for what the real Mitt Romney has been saying for the last year. And that's because he knows full well that we don't want what he has been selling over the last year. Governor Romney may dance around his positions. He may do a tap dance and two-step. But if you want to be president, then you owe the American people the truth.


O'BRIEN: The President neglected to say that during the debate but doesn't he have a point there as he was on the campaign trail he was dancing around and this is now a flip from what he said very -- you know -- specifically before?

GINGREY: I have been watching and involved in presidential politics since 1960 when I first voted. And the Republican, the conservative candidate in the primary, is always going to lean right and come back to the center for the general, the opposite for the Democrat. That's all you are seeing here. It is very typical. We strong conservatives understand that. There are a lot of undecideds in this country that are hopefully right of center, not left of center, but we want those votes too. So this is campaign strategy. This is nothing new under the sun. And President Obama understands that for sure.

O'BRIEN: OK, then let's walk through that a little bit. When Eric Fehrnstrom was on my show not so long ago back on march 21, he talked about the etch-a-sketch moment and what you described, sir, very much sounds to me like an etch a sketch moment. I will play for you first what Eric Fehrnstrom said.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I think he hit a reset button for the fall campaign. It is almost like an etch-a-sketch. You can shake it up and we start all over again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So is that what you are saying, that this really is a definition of etch-a-sketch?

GINGREY: Well, I think it was very important for Governor Romney to let the American people know that he has the capability of working across the aisle, working with the Democrats.

He explained that carefully in regards to what happened with the health care law in Massachusetts. Eighty seven percent of the legislature in the commonwealth, Democrats, and he has the ability to work across the aisle.

Whereas President Obama crammed this health care law down the throats of Congress and the American people with not one Republican vote, didn't even ask for one. It was done between him and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

O'BRIEN: And the point eloquently during the debate actually in the closing remarks. I thought he did that very well, but that's not exactly my question.

Because my question is what you said is during the campaign, you know, you lean to the right and then you come back to the center when you are actually in the general election.

So to me that is you say one thing for a certain audience to get them to support and you then say something different, maybe completely contradictory to another audience which some could define as lying. Is that an etch-a-sketch moment what we are seeing?

GINGREY: And some could refer to that as campaign tactics. Good campaign tactics without violating one's principle. I -- nobody is more conservative than -- Congress and House than Phil Gingrey. I'm in the top seven, tied for first.

I felt very comfortable with what the President said the other night during the debate. With what Mitt Romney said. I am very comfortable with his position. I have no doubt that he will govern to the right of center and that's where the American people are.

But at the same time, he will use his ability, his knowledge, his humility, his wisdom to work across the aisle and we have to do it, Soledad. You know that.

We cannot kick the can down the road anymore. We have to avoid this fiscal cliff. A new President Romney, our 45th president, will do that.

O'BRIEN: You are talking about campaign tactics and that's because an elected official. But for me, regular voter, I hear that and I think this is kind of what is wrong with politics.

You've just described -- we take one tactic and then you are going to completely change your position when talking to another audience. But you feel comfortable with that change because you feel that you know that he is going to govern to the right of center even though there are some changes that sound more left when he -- more centrist in Wednesday night's debate.

I guess, I understand someone -- who's campaign that may make sense for you, but I think for a lot of voters it just feels like basically campaigning can be lying.

GINGREY: Well, I wouldn't call it lying. A football team has a lot of players, as you know, when the coach gives that pep talk, it will -- maybe a little different what he says to the running backs and says to the linemen, but they are all on the same team. You have to pull everybody together. That's all Mitt Romney is doing.

O'BRIEN: All right, OK, sports metaphor on that. I'm sure a lot of people that will disagree with you. Congressman Gingrey, nice to see you, sir. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

GINGREY: Soledad, thank you. Always good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, voter registration fraud, is it growing? One congressman worried it could have a serious impact on this year's election.

We're going to talk to Congressman Elijah Cummings straight ahead. He'll be joining us live.

And a rare and deadly meningitis outbreak is spreading across the country. We have been talking about this for a couple of days. Talk about the source and how you can stay safe yourself. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back right after this.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. A deadly fungal meningitis outbreak is now growing. So far at least five people have died, 35 people are now infected.

Let's get back to senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She has been following these developments for us. So talk to me about the spread, Elizabeth.

How worried should people who -- you know, who -- I guess are in all these states and are now affected, how worried should we be?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, you should only be worried, Soledad, if you got a steroid shot in your back. I can't emphasize that enough. This isn't spreading person to person.

It is only going to happen to you if you got a steroid shot in your back and if that steroid was made in the New England Compounding Center because here is what happened.

Apparently, what they are looking at is was there a fungus in that because all these people who have gotten sick got a shot from a medicine that was made at that center.

So if you got that shot and you are not feeling well you should go to your doctor and say, could it be that shot that I got?

O'BRIEN: OK, obviously they are going to continue to monitor the spread. Are they able to track every single person now that has gotten that shot? I would think that wouldn't be so hard, right?

COHEN: You know, I think -- it seems like what they are doing more is trying to get the word out. They are trying to say to doctors, if you had patients who got this shot, and then become ill, you need to put two and two together.

I don't know that they are tracking down each individual person. I mean, this -- this medicine went to 75 different facilities and went to, as we have seen, many different states. I don't know that they are doing that kind of effort.

O'BRIEN: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, who has been watching this for us. Thanks, Elizabeth. Appreciate the update.

John Berman has a look at some of the other stories making news -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Good morning, Soledad. Two years after the BP oil spill, a sheen of oil four miles long has surfaced in the Gulf of Mexico near the disaster site. Coast Guard officials don't know where it is coming from.

Now this is file video of what the water looked like after the well at the bottom of the gulf blew. They first learned of the new slick over two weeks ago when it turned up a satellite image. Samples have been taken and lab results are expected back within a few weeks.

New wildfire threatening dozens of homes in Western Washington State. More than 100 firefighters are battling the fewer, which is about 10 percent contained. Red flag warnings are for fire danger and remain in effect more much of the state.

Happening right now, check this out. Live pictures from Denver, a serious morning snowstorm. These are from our affiliate, KMGH. So far no traffic trouble, but drivers are being warned to take it slow. It is like October. What's going on there?

All right, other news, an infamous member of the Manson family may soon be out of prison. A California Parole Board is recommending release for 69-year-old Bruce Davis.

He is serving a life sentence for the 1969 murder of music teacher Gary Hinman and Donald Shorty Shea. The decision is subject to a 120- day review period. Two years ago a California panel also granted parole to Davis, but that was overturned by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

November surprise, new film about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden will air two days before Election Day on the "National Geographic" Channel. "Seal Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden" is being distributed by producer, Harvey Weinsteini, a major backer of President Obama.

O'BRIEN: That's not a surprise at all. I don't think anybody thinks it is, do you?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, not at all. It will come out and timed with the jobs report actually.

O'BRIEN: No surprise at all, don't you think? You know, 67 million people watched that first presidential debate where President Obama stumbled and fumbled quite a bit.

Is he going to be able to recover from a lackluster performance? We are going to talk to Obama supporter, Congressman Elijah Cummings. He will be talking with us about that and other things up next.


O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney apparently changing his message this morning 24 hours after the presidential debate. Former governor talked about his 47 percent remark when he called half of Americans victims.

First, he was standing by the comments saying they were not elegantly stated. Now it sounds like he's taking it back. Listen.


ROMNEY: Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands, of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you are going say something that doesn't come out right. In this case, I said something that's completely wrong. I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent.


O'BRIEN: So this could play into a tactics by the Democrats because President Obama yesterday was questioning governor's honesty during a rally in Denver. Here is a little bit of what he said.


OBAMA: Governor Romney may dance around his positions. He may do a tap dance and a two-step, but if you want to be president, then you owe the American people the truth.


O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning, Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. He is the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. It's nice to see you, sir, as always.

good morning.

O'BRIEN: Before we get to Governor Romney's remarks about the 47 percent, let's talk a little bit about the President because watching him there in that campaign speech, on the campaign trail, much more energy than he had in the actual debate.

Sixty seven million people watched that debate and the President's performance as you well know was judged very lacking. Dana Mill Bank from "The Washington Post" said this. Obama was out of practice, unprepared to be challenged.

The White House had supposed that his forays into social media would replace traditional presidential communication. His skills atrophied. He was ill equipped, all that is not a great review.

Here is Eugene Robinson from the "Washington Post." It was not a disaster from Obama's point of view, but it was a bad night and a missed opportunity. Even if the debate had been no better than a draw, Obama could have spent the rest of the campaign running out the clock.

Now Romney and the Republicans have a new spring in their step. They believe they can win. What was the impact, do you think, of that debate?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I think the limited polling has already been done, that the impact has been very, very limited. The -- the fact is that this president came out and he laid out very carefully his plan for the future.

And what he has done. And, again, Mr. -- you talked about etch a sketch. We don't know what Mr. Romney is about. On one hand he talked for the last 18 is months about a $5 trillion tax cut and the next thing you know, abracadabra, it is gone.

Etch a sketch moment. Again, I think this president laid out what he wants to do with regard to helping this country, the middle class, do better.

Making sure we have jobs, making sure we have -- repair our infrastructure and preparing our young people for this global society so -- you know --

O'BRIEN: But you -- but you started, sir.

CUMMINGS: Let me just say this, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to stop you there for a second, if I may. You started by saying the limited polling shows that it didn't have much of an impact. I don't know what limited polling you are talking about.

Because one, I don't think enough time has passed for the real polls to take place. The polling that was done immediately, CNN's polling, done immediately after the debate by people that watched the debate it was devastating.

The numbers had completely flipped. A very wide, you know, multiple- point margin for Governor Romney. So I think that you are mistaken on that front. CUMMINGS: Well, based upon what I understand, it has been very limited. We will see. We won't really see the full impact until a few days from now, but I think it will be negligible. But the fact still remains is that we have a situation where -- you were asking Mr. Gingrey, my good friend about --

O'BRIEN: I'm always when an elected official starts calling someone a good friend because I know what's coming next.

CUMMINGS: Well, he is a good friend. The fact is he's absolutely wrong. You have a situation where you had Governor Romney sitting in the most comfortable position he could possibly be in along with his $50,000 donors. And he said basically that 47 percent of our population was dependent and were victims.

O'BRIEN: The President did not raise that in the debate. That debate might have been a good opportunity to bring that up one would imagine.

CUMMINGS: Well, the fact is that you -- you see, Mr. Romney feels he knows that that was extremely damaging and he knows. No matter what he says, that -- that image, him sitting with the -- you know, the people drinking their wine and having a nice time.

And him saying that about 47 percent of the population, by the way, our constituents, our veterans, our -- seniors and other folks and hard-working Americans, 5:30 in the morning, getting on the early bus to go to work that's what he said about them.

So he knows that no matter what he says, it is overshadowed by that. I mean, and so I think that what he's trying to do is to come back and say you know what, I know that probably the most damaging thing I have done in this election is that.

Let me try to straighten it out. Can you not straighten it out? I believe that's when he believes.

O'BRIEN: I need to ask you a quick question about this letter that you have now written to true the vote. Part of it says some suggested your true goal is not voter integrity, but voter suppression against thousands of legitimate voters who traditionally vote for Democratic candidates. Exactly what are you alleging?

CUMMINGS: What I'm saying is true to vote has consistently challenged the voting rights of legitimate voters. I believe strongly that voting is a fundamental right. It is not something that should be limited to a few people, privileged and limited to the few.

And that we must address anybody who tries to deny anybody that right to vote and I -- I consider it criminal. I consider it unpatriotic and -- highly offensive.

Basically what true to vote has done is it targets in Ohio, those districts where President Obama was successful, 9 out of 13. And they challenged legitimate voters over and over again.

And even the Ohio secretary of state has made it clear that this is really on the verge of illegitimate activity. As a matter of fact, he said it's like the boy who cried wolf.

O'BRIEN: We have reached out to "True the Vote" for their reaction to your allegations against them and have not heard back from them.

CUMMINGS: And you probably won't because the head of "True to Vote" has already said she wants a Republican administration.

O'BRIEN: We will see what they say when they get back to us. Congressman Elijah Cummings is with us this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us. We got to take a break. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Latino vote could be pivotal come Election Day. Both Democrats and Republicans, of course, angling for the vote or Latinos, but some Latino Republicans are putting pressure on leaders in their own party informing them to do more outreach and focus less on immigration.

I've been following both parties for a year in the state of Nevada. Listen.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": I'm Anderson Cooper in Las Vegas. Tonight, the presidential candidates come here to win the west.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): In October 2011, the Republican presidential candidates rolled into town with their money and their message.

COOPER: Herman Cain, let me start with you. Would you build an entire fence along the entire border and would you have it be electrified?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will build a double-walled fence.

O'BRIEN: There's tough talk on immigration.

ROMNEY: You have enough border patrol agents to oversee the fence and, number two, you turn off the magnets like tuition breaks or other breaks that draw people into this country illegally.

COOPER: We have a question in the audience.

O'BRIEN: In the audience is Las Vegas businessman, Robert Zavala, a Republican voter anxious to ask the question on the minds of many Latino voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 50 million Latinos and not all of us are illegal. What is the message from you guys to our Latino community?

O'BRIEN (on camera): Is it a tough thing to be Republican and Latino here?


O'BRIEN: How so?

ROBERT ZAVALA, REPUBLICAN VOTER: I have to all the time defend the party and say that's not all of us. Our community is not only about immigration. Our community is like any other community. They want jobs, better education for the kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the message that we take to the grassroots?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Hours after the GOP debate in a different session, Zavala is still pressing his own party's leaders for answers.

ZAVALA: We don't know how to reach them out there. The Democrats are kicking our behind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need you out here, talking to us, to the Latinos.

O'BRIEN: Republican Cecilia Aldana shares Zavala's dissatisfaction.

ZAVALA: The Republican leadership has to send a message to our community.

O'BRIEN (on camera): What's your frustration with the Republican Party?

CECILIA ALDANA, REPUBLICAN ACTIVIST: They don't see what Hispanics go through every day and how it is that the other party is taking advantage of that. They don't see it as a problem.

O'BRIEN: You think that the Republicans aren't fighting for your vote?

ALDANA: Exactly.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): But Cecilia wants to fight for their votes and is pushing the GOP leadership to join her and take their message to the Latino community.

ALDANA: I never see them trying to be out there and express their voices, you know. I'm not afraid to tell people what I stand for. So I want them to be with me out there, trying to teach and educate the population.


O'BRIEN: We take a look at both the Democrats and the Republicans in my documentary, "Latino in America Courting Their Vote" that will air Sunday at 8:00 pm Eastern and repeat at 11:00 pm Eastern right on CNN.

I want to update something. We were just talking to Congressman Elijah Cummings and said that "True the Vote" had not responded to our request for a comment.

They now have just a couple of minutes ago. They say this, "True the Vote" has forwarded Congressman Cummings' letter to his legal team.

It's more than happy to avail itself to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In the interim, "True the Vote" invites Congressman Cummings or any other interested party to participate in any training sessions in the weeks ahead.

All right, ahead this morning, could the October surprise be the September jobs report. The critical numbers are due out in just about 30 minutes. We're going to have instant reaction, talk about how they could affect the election, that's ahead.