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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Columbus Day Shivers; Gallup Poll Shows Presidential Race Tied; Up Next: Biden Versus Ryan; Romney On Attack In New Speech; Easing The Pain At The Pump; Wedding Brawl Turns Deadly; Fungal Meningitis Cases Rise Sharply; Drew Brees Breaks Record; Chavez Staying In Power; Experts: Stock Rally is Over; Too Fat to Fight?

Aired October 8, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's freezing. A blast of winter on October. Temperature is just below freezing, shattering records across the country.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: This man is in rare form this morning. Ladies and gentlemen, blasting off to a new era of space flight right now, a commercial spacecraft rockets towards the International Space Station.

BERMAN: And this is amazing. You can hear someone yell, "They just decked the bride."

SAMBOLIN: My gosh.

BERMAN: This is a wedding video to remember for all the wrong reasons. A wild booze-fuelled brawl breaks out in front of the bride. It is all caught on camera.

SAMBOLIN: It's really terrible. It ended with a death. It's terrible.

BERMAN: Tell you all about it. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad to have you with us. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East and we begin with weather. Bone-chilling cold, three weeks before Halloween, a dramatic drop in temperatures over the weekend.

BERMAN: This cold snap gripping about two-thirds of the country. Dozens of cities saw record lows over the weekend including Sioux City, Iowa, at 15 degrees, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 21 degrees and Grand Junction, Colorado, a new low of 30 and Tulsa, Oklahoma scraping the freezing mark at 32 degrees.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I don't have the props that you had earlier today. It was a calendar that says October. Apparently, there is a little light or warmth at the end of the tunnel later this week.

Alexandria Steele is live in the Extreme Weather Center. So John earlier today had that big calendar pointing at October, what is going on with these extreme cold temperatures?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, we're two and a half months away from winter and we are going to see a light. We are going to see some warmth. So this is about as low as it's going to go today for the southeast and eastern seaboard and we will warm up a little bit.

But here's a look, record low "high temperatures" yesterday. We had about 150 Saturday and Sunday. In St. Louis, 51 degrees. You should be well warmer than that - 68. In Dallas, Texas, only the low 50s, you should be at 78. So temperatures on the whole between about 15 and 25 degrees below average.

Freeze front, you can see it throughout much of the country all the way from Texas through the Ohio Valley. Here we're running in Ohio about a week and a half earlier than their normal average first freeze so everything coming a little earlier.

Coldest air thus far we saw it starting in the beginning of the week about four or five days ago in the northern plains, drop south and eastward. Here in the southeast, 20 to 30 below, but here's the light. In the next six to ten days, climatology we will be above average for the balance of the country so taking a look today in the 50s in the northeast, 60s in the southeast and today really the coldest of the cold.

Temperatures you can see warming up to 60 by Wednesday, 65 in New York by Wednesday, and around 70 degrees Wednesday in Philadelphia so everyone warming up today kind of bottoming out and then warming up from here.

SAMBOLIN: Well, that's a little good news.

BERMAN: Yes. It's just uncalled for. Going on now it's just completely uncalled for.

SAMBOLIN: He's outraged over this morning over this. Thanks, Alexandra.

It's 2 minutes past the hour here. A new poll shows good news for Mitt Romney. Not so good news for President Obama. The Gallup poll shows the race is now tied, each candidate getting 47 percent.

But a closer look shows a bounce for Mitt Romney right after last week's debate. He picked up two points, the president lost three. So let's check in with Paul Steinhauser. He is CNN's political editor. He is live in Washington.

Earlier, I said this was a brand new poll. It is not a brand new poll but we are now dissecting the numbers, is that right?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. The tracking poll came out on Sunday, but what they did -- go back to that screen, they broke it down. It's a seven-day tracking poll. That's what Gallup normally does.

But take a look, on the left. Those are the numbers prior to the debate, the 50 to 45 percent. That's the president --

SAMBOLIN: There they are.

STEINHAUSER: That's the president with a five-point advantage within the sampling error. Those are the three days leading up to the debate. You can see on the right, those are the three days after the debate.

This is among registered voters, Gallup's tracking poll, polls registered voters. A lot of the other polls move to a smaller and more narrow likely voter model. Couple things about those numbers, remember the national polls were tightening up anyway even before the first presidential debate.

So I guess this extenuates that trend. We're going to see a lot more polling over the next few days, both nationally and in states. Here's another number from that Gallup poll. This is of people who watched the debate and take a look at this.

Just like our CNN/ORC poll that came after the debate, you can see right here. Most Americans and we break it down by party here in Gallup. Most Americans thought Mitt Romney won that debate. Even among Democrats, a plurality there.

SAMBOLIN: Everybody.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, said that Mitt Romney won the debate. How about the states because remember the battle for the White House is not a battle nationally, but a battle for the states and their electoral votes.

Take a look at this, from the University of Denver, yes, the same place that hosted that debate last Wednesday night. This is a poll post-debate of Colorado likely voters, the president with a slight advantage within the sampling error.

Paulson, Colorado before the debate also showed a pretty similar story there -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Don't you remember we were talking before the debates, will it matter? Will the debates matter? Apparently, the answer this time is yes.

STEINHAUSER: From the Gallup poll. One poll, we'll see what others show as well.

SAMBOLIN: I know. You have a lot more you're going to be sharing with us in the coming days. So the stakes are high now for President Biden going into Thursday's one and only debate with Paul Ryan. What are the expectations from both sides here?

STEINHAUSER: Both sides are trying to lower expectations for their candidate. We heard it again on the Sunday talk shows just like they're doing for the presidential debate.

There is a lot more I think at stake in the vice presidential debate on Thursday because of the president's what you could say would be lackluster performance in the first presidential debate. Vice President Biden/Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, both talking about their upcoming showdown. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it. I really am. The thing about Congressman Ryan is he's been straightforward up to now about everything he is -- all the significant changes he wants to make. We have a fundamentally different view on a whole range of issues.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We think he's probably going to come at me like a cannonball. More pressure, because Mitt Romney put such a great performance that the bar is pretty high. Also pressure because Joe Biden has been doing this for 40 years. I mean, the man ran for president twice. He's a sitting vice president. This is my first time on this kind of a stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: Now the president didn't bring up the 47 percent or Bain Capital in his debate last week. My guess is maybe the Vice President Biden brings it up on Thursday night -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Aren't the expectations higher for Ryan too as far as, you know, the polling goes as well?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, our poll -- we did a poll about two weeks ago and it indicated more people thought Ryan would win the debate over Vice President Biden. Ryan is known as a numbers guy, of course, he is the House Budget chairman -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Mitt Romney will deliver a big foreign policy speech this morning. You have some excerpts for us I understand.

STEINHAUSER: The campaign put them out just a few hours ago. Of course, the speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Virginia battleground state, a big foreign policy speech is what they're touting.

Here's one of the things that Mitt Romney will say, "I believe that if America does not lead, others will. Others who do not share our interest and our values, and the world will grow darker for our friends and for us.

America's security in the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years. Similar language to what we've heard from Mitt Romney on the campaign trail criticizing the president he says we're not being muscular enough when it comes defending the United States and its allies -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Paul Steinhauser, live in Washington, D.C., thank you.

Coming up at half past the hour, we'll speak live to Congresswoman Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican and surrogate for Mitt Romney's campaign who works with Paul Ryan on the Budget Committee.

A reminder for you, the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, takes place this Thursday. You can watch it live at 7:00 Eastern on CNN and always on cnn.com.

BERMAN: The only one. You will not want to miss it.

All right, 7 minutes after the hour. AAA now says the national price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.82. Governor Jerry Brown taking emergency measures to ease the pump in California. Prices have spiked there to $4.66 a gallon. That's the highest level in the country because of refinery outages and supply chain problems. Governor Brown is calling for an increase in supply and early switch to a winter blend fuel.

SAMBOLIN: All right, a man guy dies of a heart attack right after this an all-out brawl between two wedding parties. Take a look at this, Philadelphia police say a fight was already brewing between guests in one party, but there was also tension with members of another party.

They say the brawl broke out at the bar as you're seeing right there. Two men were cited for disorderly conduct. A third man, the one police hit with a baton in this YouTube video is reportedly still in jail. A 57-year-old man reported to be the uncle of the bride died of a heart attack shortly after that fight.

BERMAN: The video is honestly shocking.

All right, outbreak growing, this story is disconcerting also. The number of fungal meningitis cases jumps to at least 91 and health officials say the outbreak is far from over. Seven people have now died. Investigators in Massachusetts are trying to find the precise source of the outbreak at the facility where potentially tainted steroid injections were made.

SAMBOLIN: A new era for NASA and space flight in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one and liftoff, liftoff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: For the first time a commercially owned rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, hoisting into space a capsule loaded with supplies for the International Space Station. Last night's launch is the first of a dozen flights that NASA has contracted with commercial carriers to ferry cargo to the space station.

BERMAN: An NFL record that stood for 52 years is now history. Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for four touchdown passes last night as the Saints won for the first time this season. They beat the San Diego Chargers. Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas' mark with a touchdown pass, now 40 straight games in a row.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW BREES, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, QUARTERBACK: I think the amazing thing about a record like this, it spans over the course of really four seasons. And hopefully we can keep it going for a while.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Zoraida says that Drew Brees has a great game. Brees shared the moment with Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis. They were allowed to attend the game. All three were suspended for the Saint bounty scandal.

Of course, this programming note, Drew Brees will bring his great game here later this week. He will be a live guest on "STARTING POINT."

SAMBOLIN: Not exactly a great game I said he had, but you can fill in the blanks. It's 10 minutes past the hour. Today the voters have spoken in what was a huge test of political power for Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. We go live to Caracas that is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back be to EARLY START, everyone. It's 13 minutes after the hour. Glad you're with us. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. The closest thing to a nail-biter Hugo Chavez has seen, but in the end, he won a third term as Venezuela's president.

Analysts say the results are telling that Chavez is weaker politically in Venezuela. And there are persistent unanswered questions about his health as well whether Chavez is healthy enough to complete another six years in office.

Supporters marking the victory with fireworks and a celebration outside the balcony of the presidential palace. Senior international correspondent, Paula Newton has been following the vote and she joins us now live from Caracas. Paula, can you set the scene for us?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was incredible. We had election restrictions on us, but even before, I would say about an hour before the results came out, the entire sky behind us lit up with fireworks, people were on the streets really celebrating.

On the other hand, this is the day after the night before and there are tough financial questions facing this country. You wouldn't know it listening to Hugo Chavez.

I want you to hear him now pretty as he was having his Evita moment on the balcony last night, not giving an inch to the opposition at all. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUGO CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): More than 8 million compatriots voted for the revolution. They voted for socialism. They voted for independence. They voted for the greatness of Venezuela.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: You know, the greatness of Venezuela, this is definitely fuel by petrol profits. We talked about it before, he used every apparatus in this state to make sure he won in this election. And that's why even 10 percent, that was the margin that he won by, that the opposition did do quite a job here.

And, you know, Zoraida, there is a lot of intimidation here at times. Some people feel their vote can't be kept secret. So, they get more than 6 million people to walk to the polls to vote for a change in Venezuela is still a big deal.

And you mentioned how he says he's cured of cancer but if you take a look at him he doesn't seem like he's doing all that well and didn't have the stamina through this campaign than he's had through others.

SAMBOLIN: I know there were a lot of troops on standby, about 140,000. Were there any problems?

NEWTON: No problems. I think many people, opposition or government, is saying that is a true victory for Venezuela. There was tension throughout this country, there is no missing that. On the other hand, this was a transparent election, free and fair, and right now, so far, fingers crossed a few hours afterwards no tensions to be recorded. That is a significant step forward for Venezuela.

SAMBOLIN: Paula, we don't have a lot of time here but what does this re-election mean for the United States?

NEWTON: You know, we talk about gas prices every morning. This country needs to get its act together. Nine percent of the oil from here goes to the United States helps keep a steady flow of crude into the United States. This country could produce a heck of a lot more oil if it would get its act together. It's a member of OPEC, largest proven reserves in the world. Enough said. That's what will affect our gas prices going forward.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Paula Newton, live in Caracas, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. Sixteen minutes after the hour. Lot of news this morning. I want to get you up to speed on the headlines. And here's Christine Romans with that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Chilly start to the Columbus Day holiday. Millions of people waking up to low temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. Check out this herd of elk enjoying the first snow of the season near Denver over the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: Sweet. ROMANS: Something you don't see in most of the country.

Eighty-eight cities saw a record low temperatures yesterday. Today, frost and freeze advisories extend from Texas, all the way to Upstate New York.

The countdown to Election Day is on. Twenty-nine days to go and there's a brand new snapshot of the race. Mitt Romney getting a big debate bounce in a new Gallup poll. The survey showing the race is tied at 47 percent, a five-point lead for President Obama gone.

Two scientists are sharing the Nobel Prize in medicine, Great Britain's John Gurdon and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka, won for their stem cell research. John Berman passed up again.

They discovered mature specialized cells can be preprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all other tissue cells in the body. And I love the Nobel Prizes because it really shows you how, you know, people, humans, can be educated, learn, study and change the world.

BERMAN: Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

All right. Eighteen minutes after the hour.

You may recall the story of Jason Russell. He's the creator of the movie "Kony 2012" which highlights the brutality of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. Back in March, Russell had a public breakdown on the streets of San Diego, running into traffic with no clothes on.

He now tells Oprah Winfrey in an exclusive interview that aired last night in the program "Oprah's Next Chapter" that he was hospitalized suffering from a condition called reactive psychosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON RUSSELL, DIRECTOR, KONY 2012: You don't go through something this traumatic, dramatic, public, and not learn a lot from it and not grow closer to your wife and to your family and to the people who are in your tribe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Jason Russell says he feels like he is on top of the world these days. Nice to hear.

SAMBOLIN: Good for him.

All right. It was a nice -- it was nice while it lasted. Coming up why experts now say this year's stock market surge is history.

BERMAN: Oh, no.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, we're going to tell you why. Well, Christine is going to tell you why, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are down signaling a lower open for stocks today.

SAMBOLIN: Third quarter earnings season kicks off this week as well. But people are still talking about the jobs report on Friday.

ROMANS: Yes, 7.8 percent the unemployment rate, a bigger than expected drop, but only 114,000 jobs created -- which isn't really that great. So, a lot of people talking about what this means for the race, for your ability to get a job had and the like and one more jobs report -- one more jobs report until the election.

This morning, I want to talk about what's happening in the stock market, because in case you live under a rock, it has been a great year for stocks, but the projections are a little more cautious, shall we say.

CNN Money surveyed 37 investment managers and money managers and investment advisors and found that a majority think the stock market is over, 1,440, that middle blue line is probably going to be where stocks close for the year and that's right about where they are right now.

So you've had a pretty good run this year. They're not saying dump out of stocks. Just saying don't expect more big gains through the rest of the year. So, couple of things to worry about.

The fiscal cliff they're worried about, they're worried about earnings, no question. The presidential election, the debt crisis. A couple money managers who I talk to often, they're still bullish, they say the fed is still pumping so much money into the system that will continue to be supportive for stocks and once you get the election out of the way maybe that's one had hurdle that will be gone and a hurdle to the stock market.

Another thing I want to talk about this morning, a congressional report on Chinese telecom companies, very, very sharply worded draft report that we've seen, that says these telecom companies Huawei and ZTE should not be allowed to expand in the United States. It's a year-long probe of these two telecoms.

The report says they could threaten our national security because of their ties to the Chinese government. They have poor records of intellectual property violations, alleged ties to Iran and the committee describes a pattern and practice of potentially illegal behavior.

China has the means, opportunity and motive to use telecommunication companies for malicious purposes. Of course, Chinese Huawei responds quite vigorously and says this is hogwash. Any suggestions Huawei is somehow vulnerable to cyber mischief, ignored technical and commercial realities, recklessly threaten American jobs and innovation, do nothing to protect national security, et cetera, et cetera.

Watch this space. You're seeing a U.S. government being careful about Chinese investments in the U.S.

BERMAN: What's the one thing we need to know about our money. No hogwash please.

This is only about stocks. Time to take stock in your 401(k) this year. If you're periodically rebalancing your portfolio, it doesn't matter what happens from here to the end of the year. It doesn't matter I'm telling you. Not sure how to do that.

We're going to post a link to a quiz you can take to make sure you have the right mix of stocks, bonds and cash for the long haul and make sure you know how to rebalance it, so you're always getting the benefit of the moves in the market.

BERMAN: That is on our blog on EARLY START. Worth doing. I'm going to do that later this morning, seriously.

It's 25 minutes after the hour. Coming up: gone in six seconds. A crash on the last turn of the last lap takes out almost the entire field at Talladega. This was nuts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Neck and neck, a new breakdown of the poll numbers with just 29 days left in the race.

BERMAN: Fake debate, real issues. Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart go where the candidates would never dare.

SAMBOLIN: Ready, willing but unable to serve in the military because of his weight. A young recruit transforms himself and we are going to talk to him live. It is a pretty remarkable story, folks.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

We're going to start with campaign news because in just a few hours, Mitt Romney will take on the president and his handling of foreign policy in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute.

And the Obama campaign is already fighting back. Jen Psaki is spokesperson for that campaign, telling reporters, "We're not going to be lectured by someone who's been an unmitigated disaster on foreign policy every time he's dipped his toe in the foreign policy waters. It's a very high bar he would have to jump over to convince them he's prepared to be commander-in-chief."

Now, this address will kick off a busy week for both campaigns, culminating with Paul Ryan and vice president facing off for their first and only debate on Thursday night.

We're joined now by Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Diane Black. She's a Romney supporter and also works with Paul Ryan on both the House Budget and Ways and Means Committee. In that vein, I'd like to start with numbers here, jobs numbers. A big supporter of your campaign, Jack Welch, sent out a tweet on Friday after the unemployment report came out showing 7.8 percent unemployment, and Jack Welch wrote, "Unbelievable jobs numbers. These Chicago guys will do anything. Can't debate so change the numbers."

Do you stand by this comment from Jack Welch? Do you think that the White House cooked the numbers in the jobs report?

REP. DIANE BLACK, (R-TN) MEMBER, BUDGET COMMITTEE: Well look, we're just going to talk about the facts. There's 23 million Americans who are unemployed. They're either looking for a job, they are giving up or underemployed.

And so, if we just look at the numbers and take that for what it's worth, and I don't know that we have to say much more about whether the numbers have been cooked or not.

BERMAN: Well, the numbers are also 7.8 percent unemployment the lowest since President Obama was inaugurated, correct?

BLACK: Well, let's take a look at those numbers and take a little deeper look and say, for those who are not looking for a job any longer, they're not in the workplace. They're not in the work participation.

If you were to add those to those numbers, we'd have about 11 percent unemployment. Look, one month of these numbers --

BERMAN: That includes people who are retired, correct?

BLACK: But let's look at those numbers a little closer again, we're looking at 43 state months of unemployment above 8 percent. The president himself in his own remarks during his own campaign said if he did not have this under control by this point in time, he didn't deserve to have another chance at another four-year term.

To that, you know, let's take a look at the stimulus package. He said that if unemployment was --

BERMAN: Just be clear, he did say it were no longer a month above 8 percent. We're below 8 percent unemployment, correct?

BLACK: Well, he didn't use a number when he was campaigning. He just said if he did not have this situation under control. I don't consider 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent and then you have one good month after 43 straight months, that is hardly a trend.

BERMAN: Let's move on, again, because you are on the Budget and Ways and Means. I want to talk about balancing the budget here. Governor Romney has called for 20 percent across the board tax cuts for all Americans right now.

What are the three deductions you would like to see reduced in order to help pay for this? BERMAN: Well, I think that we can talk about the reductions or -- we can talk about those deductions or credits that we already give, and the three that are the most popular that I think you will see, both Democrats and Republicans agreeing that they should be kept and that's the child tax credit, the credit for health care expenses and also for charitable gifts. And then add a fourth one to that as the mortgage.

So I think those are the four that you'll be seeing that will be probably able to agree on both sides of the aisle.

BERMAN: To what? I'm sorry, to cut or keep? To cut or to keep?

BLACK: No, those would be ones that I would say we would keep.

BERMAN: So you're going to keep the mortgage tax deduction completely, because Mitt Romney has suggested maybe that one will be changed?

BLACK: Well, his -- he's talked about that one maybe being changed for the second homes. But that is one that's pretty popular and one that I think does help the middle-class people and I think that's one that we'll probably end up agreeing on.

Now there may be some changes in that and, of course, that's all negotiation that you do when you get down to the brass tacks between everybody sitting around the table. You don't want to talk about all of that in detail at this point in time because that's what negotiations are about.

BERMAN: But gosh, the brass tacks here is how the budget is going to be balanced one way or the other and if you're not willing to provide some details, the American people won't get a sense of how it will be deficit neutral, will they?

BLACK: But, John, let's go to what really needs to be talked about and that is, where the true debt comes from. The true debt comes from those areas that we have talked about in our Budget Committee, that we have passed twice now in the House and the Senate has done nothing. The president brought his budget to us and I think it's very interesting that no one in his own party voted for his budget.

So, we've got four straight years of no budget with a president. That's -- that's unbelievable that we could have four straight years without a budget actually being passed under this president, which shows me that we don't have leadership because we have put out a budget that has been passed in the House and it's a responsible budget that starts to bend the curve.

BERMAN: All right.

BLACK: You've got to go to where the debt is to be able to really talk about taking care of the debt issue.

BERMAN: Diane Black, it is great to see you this morning. We'll all be watching the debate Thursday night. The vice presidential showdown. Thanks very much for joining us this morning. BLACK: Well, it's great to be with you. Thank you.

BERMAN: And a reminder to everyone out there, this vice presidential debate only one of the 2012 campaign, takes place Thursday. You can watch it live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN and CNN.com.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-five minutes past the hour. New clues in the search for a missing girl in Colorado. Police say they found 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway's backpack and water bottle some six miles from her home in Westminster, Colorado.

Hundreds of volunteers spent the weekend searching for that little girl. She disappeared Friday morning after leaving home to meet friend three blocks away.

NASCAR looked more like bumper cars on the final lap of Sunday's race at Talladega. There was a massive wreck involving 25 cars. Look at this. Fear for the drivers. It was triggered when driver Tony Stewart tried to make a move, amazingly in that big mess, no one was injured. When the exhaust smoke cleared, Matt Kenseth was your race winner.

And make that a record 48 straight gains with a touchdown pass for Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He threw four last night as the Saints won their first game of the season. Brees broke the record held by Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BREES: This record for 52 years, Johnny Unitas, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game, really revolutionized the position, everything that he stood for as a player, and just a pioneer of this game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Coaches Sean Peyton and Joe Vitt, along with G.M. Mickey Loomis were allowed to attend the game. All three were suspended in the Saints boundary scandal.

And this programming note for you: Drew Brees will be a guest Wednesday morning on "STARTING POINT."

BERMAN: Wow. That's exciting.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: All right. Thirty-six minutes after the hour right now.

And the conservative commentator takes on the comedian. Coming up, a search for substance amidst the laugh at the Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart mock debate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Forty minutes past the hour. It was billed as a rumble in a temperature controlled room with a wrestling belt as a prize. And when conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly and comedian Jon Stewart met on Saturday, there were plenty of jokes to be had. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I have come here tonight to plead to the Mayor of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Mountain --

(CHEERS & LAUGHTER)

STEWART: -- talk to your people.

(CHEERS)

BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": This man, this man over here, has offended every single American. Are you going to stand there -- are you sitting or standing?

(LAUGHTER)

And what would you like for Christmas, little boy?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could see any American elected president, who would you choose and why?

O'REILLY: I'd say Clint Eastwood would have to be my guy.

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: Well, why don't we ask him?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think is the most fundamental problem with the public political discourse?

O'REILLY: Stewart.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: But between all of the laughs, there was substance.

Christopher John Farley is the senior editorial director of "Digital Features" for "The Wall Street Journal" and he spoke to Bill O'Reilly in the lead up to the debate.

This followed the presidential debate on Wednesday. You were speaking earlier about the differences of a normal debate and this type. You say it all comes down -- you said that it all comes down to offending people. Can you explain that? CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": I think what's interesting about this debate is in political bits, of course, people are trying to score points, they're trying to run campaigns. But this is more of a comedic debate and they're just trying to talk about the issues, trying to make you laugh a little bit.

And I think in doing so, there's less pressure really to obscure issues, to try to lead voters to certain path. You can talk about what's really in front of you. So, I think people got a lot out of this debate, but they might not get out of a presidential debate because that's about the campaign.

SAMBOLIN: Well, there was -- there were some serious moments. I want to play one and then we're going to talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'REILLY: You have the private insurance companies, however they have mandates. They can't throw you off if you're sick. They have to keep basically --

STEWART: Did you say mandates?

O'REILLY: Yes. Mandates. The government has an oversight capacity, doesn't take it over because the government is going to screw it up.

STEWART: Here's what I would do from health care. I would decouple it from work. I would make sure the employers are not responsible for health care. What that would do is free people up to have more mobility in terms of changing jobs, in terms of not worrying about illness, putting them into bankruptcy, and all those situations we're in now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FARLEY: You don't usually see comedians talking about mandates and talking about health care in detail. Before this, it was a serious moment where Jon Stewart talked about the fact that Bill O'Reilly's dad, when he left the job, had gotten disability. They he tried to use that to show that everyone at some point, you know, depends on the government to support them in some way and you shouldn't hold that against them.

There's some real heat there because he got personal. Talk about a guy's dad in a debate.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, and how he respond. Yes.

FARLEY: That's sticking it to him.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So who won this debate in your opinion? You watched the entire thing and talked to one of the guys. What do you think?

FARLEY: What I thought was great, it wasn't a winner or loser and that's what made it interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Really?

FARLEY: I'm going to cop out and say there's no winner or loser. People are trying to win, make the other guy lose instead of talking about the issues that are right in front of them. Here because they're decoupled from that, it made it more interesting.

SAMBOLIN: There was a loser here, right? And it was the viewer, because there were some issues.

FARLEY: The thing is, if you're sitting at home Saturday night watching a political debate online, you're socially challenged anyways.

SAMBOLIN: No kidding, that's what I thought earlier.

FARLEY: On top of that, you paid $4.95 and you can't watch the thing you paid for that's tough. So, people had some problems. They say they're going try to refund money to people that want it. But so far, they haven't provided the details on how that's going to happen.

So, of course, the organizers before this debate, they were on the hot seat on Saturday night because they didn't provide the service to a lot of people they said they would.

SAMBOLIN: And this was in part done for charity, right?

FARLEY: It was done for charity. Some of the money is going to various veteran groups and also done to help support Bill O'Reilly who has a book out called "Killing Kennedy," it's a new book, and is able to get a plug in for it as debate was going on.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Christopher John Farley, senior editorial director, "Digital Features", "Wall Street Journal" -- thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

FARLEY: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Forty-five minutes after the hour. I want to get you up to speed on all the morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): Frosty pumpkins. Millions of people waking up this morning to low, low temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. Many seen their first snow of the season already and it is only Columbus Day. This is no way to celebrate Columbus Day. That's even a strange sight in places like Fargo.

Eighty-eight cities saw record low temperatures yesterday, but things are expected to warm up later this week.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is keeping his job. He endured the strongest political challenge of his entire career, but he did win a third team. Supporters are marking the victory with fireworks and the celebration outside the balcony of the presidential palace. But you know, there are still questions about whether Chavez who has rebounded from cancer is healthy enough to complete another six years in office.

The fungal meningitis outbreak is not letting up. The number of cases jumped to at least 91. And officials say the outbreak is far from over. Seven people have now died. Now, investigators in Massachusetts are trying to figure out the precise source of the outbreak at the facility where potentially tainted steroid injections were made.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): So scary.

The New York Yankees beating their division rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, to take a 1-0 lead in the division series. The Bombers Bats waking up in the ninth inning for the 7-2 victory and Yankee's ace CC Sabathia, threw a gem, coming up just one out short of a complete game.

In the national league, the Cincinnati Reds are one win away from playing for a pennant. They crushed the Giants nine, nothing behind pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, who gave up just a single hit in seven innings.

BERMAN: Good for Bronson Arroyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (on-camera): Happy for him.

Soledad, what's on "STARTING POINT" today?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow! So much. Thank you for asking. A lot is happening right at the top of the hour. Of course, as the election gets closer, the stakes are higher. Mitt Romney is preparing to hit President Obama hard on foreign policy today.

The VP nominees also getting ready for their showdown. That's going to happen on Thursday when they have their debate.

We're going to talk this morning to a photographer as they captured the images behind the scenes, get some insider details about what happens at those debates.

And then, from vows to violence. A wedding turns into an all-out brawl. Will you look at that? That's what happens when people have a little too much to drink. We'll tell you what went wrong, straight ahead.

Plus, you know, it's called Columbus Day, obviously, but, should it be called something else? We're going to take a look at the campaign to try to change the name of today's holiday to exploration day.

BERMAN: I think it should be Columbo Day in honor of Peter Falk.

O'BRIEN: I think Exploration Day will never stick is what I know.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: I agree with you.

O'BRIEN: That's right (INAUDIBLE). We'll see you then.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

BERMAN: Forty-seven minutes after the hour. Uncle Sam said had he was too big for boot camp, but our next guest refused to take no for an answer. Coming up, we'll speak to the determined recruit who shed 160 pounds to get into the army. Amazing. Look at him. He looks great.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: A report out by a group of senior retired military leaders says that one in four young Americans is too overweight to serve in the military. The group mission readiness calls Childhood Obesity a national security issue. Military recruiters told our next guest that he was too overweight to serve, so Kevin Ammerman lost 160 pounds, 160 pounds, so he could enlist in the army.

Kevin joins me right now. KEVIN, I have to say, you look fantastic. Thanks for being with us this morning.

KEVIN AMMERMAN, LOST 160 POUNDS TO ENLIST: Thank you.

BERMAN: Also, by the way, you're 34 years old here. I mean, you know, you're barely -- you're almost too old to make the cutoff. So, why on earth did you want to do this? And you're going to have to cut your hair, by the way.

AMMERMAN: Oh. Well, what little I got left, right? No. I wanted to do it because when I was younger, my family has as lot of respect for the military and my younger brother is in. And it was kind of shocking that he's done something that I've always talked about doing and that was kind -- that was one of the major reasons for me.

BERMAN: So, you know, you hear 160 pounds, that's a pretty big headline. You lost 160 pounds. We have some photos here that illustrate how you did it over time, that's you before you lost the weight. You know, we have some other shots over time to show how you drop steadily. Oh, man. Like I said, you look great now. How did you drop the weight? What are your secrets?

AMMERMAN: Well, I worked with a company called Slim Fit, and they showed me basically what I was doing wrong. And that the four key ingredients to losing weight for me was, first, you obviously have to want to do it and you have to want to do it enough that you'll write down what you're eating. That's probably the big key. The second one is the exercise and the third is getting into a steady routine.

BERMAN: Are you sure you can keep the weight off? I mean, you're about to go to boot camp which I understand is not easy.

AMMERMAN: Yes.

BERMAN: And you're sure you're up for this? You're sure your body has adjusted after the weight loss and can handle it?

AMMERMAN: Yes. The longest I've -- I'm up to where I can run up to five miles or 40 minutes. So, I think that's pretty much -- when you're able to do that, I think you're pretty much able to go and handle it.

BERMAN: You know, the military says this study we just cited says the 25 percent of young Americans are just too overweight to serve. You know, as a new recruit, is this something that concerns you?

AMMERMAN: Yes. I've seen a lot of guys come in and that's a problem, that you'll see a lot -- I'm actually able to outperform guys in their 20s. And furthermore, I would like to point out that unlike the battery of tests you have to take to determine what job you're in, a lot of younger people are not scoring pretty high at all, and it's kind of troubling.

But it is getting better. They have a future soldiers program that's helping the younger recruits.

BERMAN: Level with me, Kevin, what's your biggest fear heading into boot camp?

(LAUGHTER)

AMMERMAN: My biggest fear is that because I'm so old, that people might expect certain things of me that they might not of a younger recruit, and I'm worried I'll let somebody down or something like that.

BERMAN: Got you --

AMMERMAN: If I can get ahead of the game, I should be all right.

BERMAN: So, you'll assure people you may be old but you are, in fact, immature. That's your story.

(LAUGHTER)

AMMERMAN: You've seen the poses, right?

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Kevin, it's great to see you. Congratulations on all that weight loss. You look terrific. You're an inspiration to all of us.

AMMERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Again, that's Kevin Ammerman. He lost 160 pounds to enlist in the army. Amazing. Now, we have some other advice coming up. This one coming from the governor of the great state of Connecticut. What Dan Maloy says, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty-eight minutes past the hour.

BERMAN: And as always, we wrap it up with "Best Advice." Here's Christine.

ROMANS: And today's "Best Advice" from Connecticut governor, Dan Maloy. We asked him the best advice he ever received, and this is what he told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DAN MALLOY, (D) CONNECTICUT: My mother said to me every day when she was alive that I had an obligation to leave the world a better place for having lived in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You know, and what's so interesting about the fact that he took that advice and became governor, Dan Maloy is severely dyslexic, so dyslexic that he has a hard time reading speeches out loud. He barely reads speeches at all. He memorizes them. He has gone so far and achieved so much.

ROMANS: Wow!

BERMAN: He is, you know, if you love him or hate him as a Democrat or Republican or whatever, he's an inspiration.

ROMANS: That's really interesting.

SAMBOLIN: That's a great story. Thank you.

BERMAN: That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.