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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Mitt Romney to Give Foreign Policy Speech; Hugo Chavez Wins Venezuelan Presidency; House To Hold Hearing On Benghazi Attack; University of Alabama Student Killed; Funeral For Slain Border Patrol Agent; Wedding Brawl Turns Deadly; O'Reilly Versus Stewart; Spinning The Jobs Report; GOP Seizes On Unemployment; Who Will Take Ohio?; The Empty Chair; Spewing Fresh Lava And Ash; $38 Million In Illegal Drugs Seized; "Taken 2" Takes Box Office Title; Professor's Profound Gift

Aired October 8, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our "Starting Point": arctic blast. Freezing temperatures and snow stun parts of the U.S. this weekend. And fall has just started. Is relief from the cold in sight?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Next January, we'll be watching him leave the White House for the last time.

O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney prepares to hammer President Obama in a key foreign policy speech today as the running mates get ready for their showdown.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sure that Vice President Biden got a phone call from the White House and said, we didn't go after Governor Romney as much and so you have got to turn up the heat.

O'BRIEN: And breaking a record, New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, passes a major milestone and enters the record books.

It's Monday, October 8th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Happy Columbus Day. Kind of feels like New Year's Day across the country. Our starting point this morning is the bone-chilling temperatures. A cold snap is gripping roughly two-thirds of the country. Dozens of cities saw record lows over the weekend. The Midwest is in an early deep freeze including in Sioux City, Iowa, where they're bottoming out at 15 degrees. Alexandra Steele is live in the extreme weather center. Good morning.

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning to you, Soledad. It certainly is cold around the country. All right, yesterday alone, 170 record low high temperatures, meaning the afternoons were well below average. St. Louis only 51, should have been 68. Places that should have been in the 60s were well below average. So freeze threat today. You can see kind of how widespread it is from the upper Midwest to Texas through the mid-Atlantic. Places like Ohio, running about a week and a half ahead of schedule with their first freeze. It's well below average and certainly a little bit earlier than normal.

Coldest thus far of the season, we saw it begin last week in the northern plains and upper Midwest, now migrating into the south and east. Today really kind of the coldest of the low and then temperatures will warm up. So there is certainly a relief in sight.

Looking at the next six to 10 days forecast, look at this, how much of the country will be above average. Other than really the northeast and northern New England, that will be just about average or slightly below. But temperatures certainly are on an upswing, no question about that.

Highs today in the 50s in the northeast, only in the low 60s here in the southeast. So well cooler than average. Tomorrow, we warm up a little bit. Again, we'll continue to warm up. Thursday we're going to watch another clipper come through and cool things down again, Soledad. Kind of today is the lowest of the low and we begin to warm up around the country.

O'BRIEN: That's good news. All right, Alexandra, thank you. John Berman has a look at the rest of the stories making news today. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Columbus Day.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Back at you.

BERMAN: Some serious news, the number of fungal meningitis case has jumped to at least 91 and health officials say the number could keep on growing. Seven people have died. Investigators in Massachusetts are trying to find the precise source of the outbreak at a facility where potentially tainted steroid injections were made.

The search for a missing Colorado girl, they found a backpack and water bottle from Jessica Ridgeway about six miles from her home. He was last seen Friday morning walking to meet a group of friends on their way to school.

A spacecraft called the Dragon capsule is on it ways to the international space station but there's something different this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Liftoff, this is the first for NASA the rocket that blasted off the dragon capsule is commercially owned. NASA has contracted a dozen commercial flights to ferry cargo to the international space station. It was a historic night for the New Orleans saints and quarterback Drew Brees, broke the record held by Johnny Unitas by throwing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game. Brees did it in the first quarter and went on to throw three more. The saints need it, they won the for the first time this season 31-24 over the San Diego chargers.

Only 29 days to go until Election Day and this morning we're getting a new snapshot of the race. It does look like Mitt Romney is getting a bounce out of the debate. A Gallup poll taken over seven days your break it down, in the three days since the debate the race is tied at 47 percent. The three days prior to the debate, a five--point lead for president Obama, that gone over the last three days. Gallup asked who won the debate. Last Wednesday among debate watchers, 97 percent of Republicans said Mitt Romney won, 70 percent of independents said Mitt Romney won, and 49 percent of Democrats gave it to Romney.

Meanwhile President Obama's debate performance left a big opening for the folks at "Saturday night live."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR, PLAYING MITT ROMNEY: Number 20 --

CHRIS PARNELL, ACTOR, PLAYING JOHN LEHRER: Excuse me, Governor. Mr. President?

JAY PHAROAH, ACTOS, PLAYING BARACK OBAMA: I'm sorry. Yes. Yes, what's up?

PARNELL: Governor Romney has just said that he killed Osama bin Laden. Would you care to respond?

PHAROAH: Um, no, you two go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Not bad. And Big Bird made a surprise appearance on weekend update, he took the high road when addressing Romney's pledge to eliminate money for public television. Mr. Bird said he didn't want to ruffle any feathers.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. So as we inch toward Election Day, today could go down as a big moment in the campaign. While President Barack Obama is in San Francisco, he's attending three fundraisers, his Republican challenger Mitt Romney is getting ready to unveil his vision for foreign policy in a speech in Lexington, Virginia. Here's a portion of his speech. It goes like this, they sent us excerpts earlier. "General Marshall once said he is going to say, the only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it. Those words were true in his time and they still echo in ours."

I want to get to Tara Wall, the senior communications adviser for the Romney campaign. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

TARA WALL, SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Hi, Soledad. Good morning, absolutely.

O'BRIEN: So we know having read some of these excerpts that have been sent out by the campaign that Governor Romney's going to focus on Israel, he's going to focus on the Palestinian territories and no big surprise, he's going to focus on Iran. Why don't you spell out for me exactly what Governor Romney's position is when it comes to Iran?

WALL: Well, listen, Governor Romney is going to clearly spell out the choice that there is this election, particularly when it comes to foreign policy and all of the unrest that is happening in the Middle East right now and how we have to address that and that is working with our allies, that is calling terrorism terrorism when we see it, that is acting boldly and strongly with leadership and that's what Americans want to see and hear. I think we'll have an opportunity to see that in the speech. I don't want to give out the whole speech. I think that Americans will have the opportunity to hear that and see that. But I think certainly we need a leader who is going to be strong, going to work with our allies who is going to ensure that we make sure peace is actually happening with clear direction and in the with confusion as we saw, for example, in Libya.

O'BRIEN: So, you're right, we don't want to give away the whole speech and I'm certainly -- I couldn't deliver it as well as he probably could, but I want to read some of the excerpts that the campaign has given to us. Let's put the one where he specifically is talking about Iran. Let's put that on the screen and I'll read it. He says this, "I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran." So you know, there are people who have said that position and the one spelled out even in more depth in the excerpts is exactly the same as president Obama's position. Isn't it?

WALL: Well, I think the difference is, again, to use the example of Syria as the most recent example -- we want a leader who is going to respond forcefully, be emphatic. We still -- it's three weeks and we just had FBI agents get on the ground there. I think the expectation is that you come out and you call terrorism terrorism. You go after vigorously after those terrorists. There is a distinct difference in leading from behind or being app genic or passive about a foreign policy and one who is strong.

O'BRIEN: I'm talking about Iran and --

(CROSSTALK)

WALL: I hear you -- using an example of Syria because again we want to give Americans the opportunity to hear directly from Governor Romney when he gives a speech today.

O'BRIEN: It looks like in the excerpts that have been sent --

WALL: A distinct difference overall.

O'BRIEN: He covers Libya and Egypt and Syria.

WALL: Yes.

O'BRIEN: There's a range. Let's talk about Iran for a moment. When you actually analyze the candidate's positions if you look at Governor Romney's position on Iran and that red line that as you remember Benjamin Netanyahu was drawing in his speech and President Obama's position they're similar, aren't they identical, really?

WALL: Well, Soledad, I'm not going to get into the back and forth on foreign policy. I'm not a foreign policy expert. And, again, I think Americans need to understand there is a clear and distinct choice between these candidates relative to their approaches to how we lead, how we have led, how this president has led, failed to lead it in a large degree.

O'BRIEN: But their positions are similar -- I think their positions are similar, there's not a big difference between the two candidates.

WALL: Listen, Soledad, I'm sure you can find similarities in a number of positions with leaders on a number of different issues. The point being is there is a clear and distinct difference relative to how we lead when we deal with terrorists and when we're dealing with helping with those who want to be free and clear across the Middle East. I think there are those clear differences that have been spelled out that we do spell out and the approach that this governor takes and plans to take relative to cracking down on terrorists and enemies and those who are out to harm us and out to harm our allies.

O'BRIEN: So let's take a look at the peace in the Middle East and the -- obviously dispute between Israel and the Palestinian territory. Here's what we know he is going to say in his speech this -- later today. He's going to say "Finally I will recommit America to the goal of the democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel." And as you well know, this is very contradictory to what we know he was saying in the tape that was leaked, the 47 percent tape they were talking ate. Let me play you a little bit of what he said about this issue, the peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I've had for some time which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace and that the -- and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And another chunk later on in that same speech the one that was recorded surreptitiously, let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel and these thorny issues and I say there's just no way. You move things along the best way you can, hope for some degree of stability, but recognize it's going to remain unsolved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. As you know and you just heard, that's completely contradictory to what I read you the first time around. "I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel." Those are completely contradictor contradictory. Which one is true?

WALL: The fact is, the president who's failed in the process. He is the leader right now of this country and he has failed --

O'BRIEN: Tara, that was an excellent shift but answer for me about Governor Romney. We can talk about the president.

WALL: That is my answer. No, that is my answer, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The answer is that the president -- -- the answer about President Obama?

WALL: I think the governor has made his position clear relative to where we stand with Israel.

O'BRIEN: He hasn't, is my point.

WALL: Decided to meet with entertainment folks and people like that, rather than Benjamin Netanyahu and I think that there -- again, there's a clear position here --

O'BRIEN: It's not. It's not. That's my point. My point, Tara, hold on. Just hold on. My point is, it's completely contradictory. My question is, which is it?

WALL: In your viewpoint.

O'BRIEN: OK, then tell me how it's not completely contradictory in your viewpoint, but don't talk about President Obama at this moment. Answer the question about Governor Romney.

WALL: We will stand side by side with -- we will stand side by side with Israel, and the governor has made that clear. I'm not going to get into a big foreign policy debate with you here. That's not -- that's not -- that's not my position. That's not my role. And that's -- you know. If you want to talk about that, I suggest you put on a couple of foreign affairs experts and let them go at it and pick this apart the way that you would like to have it picked apart.

O'BRIEN: That's unfair. I'm just asking you about the message. That's unfair. I'm only asking you about a contradictory message.

WALL: That's contradictory in your view.

O'BRIEN: You couldn't explain it then. Thank you for talking with us.

WALL: Not if I don't agree with the premise.

O'BRIEN: Or you could explain that even I would take. But apparently we're not going to get to that either. Thank you for talking to us this morning, we appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning, we're going to be talking to Obama supporter Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan. He will be our best this morning as well. And we're going to be talking to former ambassador Williamson will be joining us to talk about the very detailed foreign policy issues as well as Tara was suggesting, so we'll take her up on that suggestion.

Ahead on STARTING POINT his biggest challenge in years. Hugo Chavez wins reelection and could have a big impact on what happens here in the United States. A live report from Caracas straight ahead.

And it's supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. A wedding you're looking at. It's not a brawl after a hockey game. It is a wedding and turned tragic. We'll tell you what happened. This was caught on tape. We'll share the terrible ending.

Christine, what do you have in business?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I have gas prices going up in California, higher and higher. California setting new records this week, creating misery at the pump. I'll show you what's behind the jump and what they're doing to try to stop it. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, minding your business. AAA says the national price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.82, California drivers paying an average $4.67 a gallon. To ease the strain on drivers there, California Governor Jerry Brown taking emergency measures calling for an increase in supply and early switch to a winter blend fuel.

U.S. treasury markets are closed for the holiday but stock markets will be open and concerns about growth pushing U.S. stock futures down. The World Bank lowered its outlook for growth in Asia overnight.

New report today from the house intelligence committee says Chinese tell communications companies Huawei and ZTE could threaten national security in the U.S. because of their ties to the Chinese government. The report says the companies have records of intellectual property violations and alleged ties to Iran. It also says, quote, "China has the means, opportunity and motive to use telecommunication companies for malicious purposes." While they call the committee's findings, quote, "dangerous political distractions," ZTE says its products are safe.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.

Hugo Chavez overcomes the strongest challenge to his political future to win his third term as president of Venezuela. But analysts say the results show Chavez is weaker politically in that country. Paula Newton has been following the vote for us in Caracas. Good morning.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Ten percent, he won by 10 percent, that wouldn't seem like any kind of a political victory for the opposition, but it was significant in Venezuela. When you consider he took every lever he had in the state and that was money and he threw it at this campaign, not in a traditional way we're seeing with ads back home but more in the way of getting people refrigerators, cellphones, new homes, he did everything he could. As a result the economy here has perked up. A result is they're going to have a financial hangover in the next while, even though they are a major oil producing nation.

Another thing to senior, Soledad, we haven't talked about it too much because Hugo Chavez has been compromised by the election and the cancer he was ball battling he sets up with Russia and China on the issue of Syria. We have to look forward to what he has coming up, whether he will get more serious about trying to help to get some kind of peace solution in Syria or if he will be far more provocative of that and it continue to arm Syria, not just fuel, but perhaps even arms and other things.

President Barack Obama is on the record saying he doesn't see anything that Venezuela is doing as a threat to national interests. People like Republican Senator Marco Rubio beg to differ and say look out for Chavez, now that he's in power for another six years, no telling how embolden he will be by this.

O'BRIEN: Paula Newton updating us on that election victory for Hugo Chavez. Thank you, Paula, appreciate it.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, if you've had a pat-down at one major airport, chances are good -- actually very, very high that they got it wrong. That's our get real this morning. We'll explain. Our STARTING POINT team is heading in to talk about that. STARTING POINT is back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. A quick look at some top stories this morning. Two Nobel prize in medicines were announced and they go to two scientists sharing the prize. Great Britain's John Gurdon and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka won for their stem cell research. They discovered that mature specialized cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all other tissue cells. Congratulations to them.

The Obama campaign is launching attack ad in Virginia slamming Mitt Romney's foreign policy credentials ahead of Romney's speech on foreign policy this morning. The Obama camp claims Romney's overseas trips have been reckless and amateurish.

The Bronx bombers bats woke up in the ninth. The Yankees scored five runs in the final frame to beat the Orioles and take a 1-0 lead in the division series. In the National League the Cincinnati Reds are one win away from playing the pennant. They crushed the giants nine- nothing behind pitcher Bronson Arroyo, former of the Boston Red Sox. He gave up just a single hit in seven innings. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007 --

O'BRIEN: Just has to work it in, no matter what. What about the Red Sox?

BERMAN: They won in 2004 and 2007.

O'BRIEN: So long ago.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His kids think they win every year.

BERMAN: They don't know. I told them they won the world series again this year.

O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT team this morning, Michael Skulnick is with us, editor and chief of globalgrind.com, easy for me to say, the political director for Russell Simmons. Ryan Lizza is back, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," and Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway joins us. Hope you had a great weekend.

Our "Get Real" this morning does not surprise. There are reports of shocking security lapses at Newark international airport. According to an internal transportation security administration document, Newark's security screeners did standard pat-downs of passengers properly, roughly 16 percent of the time. In no cases, zero percent of the time, did they inform passengers properly of their right to opt out of a full body scan in favor of a pat-down. The screener evaluations were done by out-of-town employees from the TSA who come in and pretend to be regular travelers. I'm not surprised.

RYAN LIZZA, "NEW YORKER": No, I'm not surprised at all. I travel a lot and basically wear the same thing and every time I go through security there's something different, sometimes the belt is on, the belt is off, feeling in one place, feeling me another --

O'BRIEN: The visual on that is a little crazy.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: So maddening and I live in New Jersey and fly out of LaGuardia or JFK because of that reason. That's one of the most annoying airports. It's so annoying and unnecessarily annoying and turns out it's unnecessarily annoying and not that safe and their food court is not that great either I should add. But they're always -- they tend to be very rude and officious and felt like if that increased people's believe they are more secure going through and not just being harassed. And this is, you know, public needs to have confidence in the government and certainly needs to have confidence in the FAA and TSA and all these important acronyms that rule our lives and doesn't help.

O'BRIEN: You've got 100 percent on good listening skills and performing their physical searches.

LIZZA: This is what I love, 100 percent on removing prohibited items found during physical search. You found an item that was prohibited and removed it. Hope you have 100 percent. BERMAN: Zero percent chance mentioning the pat-down rule.

O'BRIEN: We have to take a break. Still ahead this morning, Mitt Romney takes on President Obama's foreign policy record today as he's enjoying a post-debate bounce in the polls. You heard from the Romney campaign a few moments ago. Up next Obama supporter Congressman Tim Ryan will join us.

And this wedding celebration that went horribly wrong, a fight in the lobby somewhere between 75 and 100 people in a brawl and end ended in tragedy. We'll explain what happened, that's in Philadelphia, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Welcome. Happy Columbus Day holiday. Let's get right to the news. John Berman has that for us, top stories.

BERMAN: No one says happy Columbus Day.

O'BRIEN: I just started it. It's a new trend that I'm beginning.

BERMAN: Merry Columbus Day. Be culturally sensitive.

All right, it's 31 minutes after the hour. Looking for answers nearly a month later, a House committee opens a hearing on Wednesday into the deadly attack last month at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

America's ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was one of the four Americans killed. Lawmakers want to know if the State Department provided enough security to diplomats and personnel. A Republican congressman who returned from Libya yesterday said it is clear that requests for more security were denied.

Authorities in Alabama are investigating the shooting death of a student on the campus of University of South Alabama. Campus police say an officer shot and killed 18-year-old Gilbert Collar after the freshman showed up at the police station naked and acting erratically. According to the school, the student repeatedly pushed and verbally challenged the officer.

Family, friends and colleagues in Arizona are saying goodbye today to U.S. Border Patrol Agent Nicolas Ivy at a public funeral service this morning. During visitation yesterday, loved ones walked past his boots and hat.

His casket was draped with an American flag. Federal investigators say they believe Ivy was killed in the case of a friendly fire.

And a brawl turns deadly at a wedding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just decked the bride.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You didn't hear that incorrectly. What you just heard was someone says they just decked the bride. You never want to hear that at a wedding. A man died of a heart attack after this brawl between two wedding parties.

Philadelphia police say two men were cited for disorderly conduct and alcohol was a factor. A third man, the one police hit with a baton in this YouTube video is reportedly still in jail.

A different kind of rumble in the nation's capital over the weekend, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart head to head in a mock debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": The biggest spending president by far in the history of the United States. In fact, President Obama has spent more money than all of the other presidents combined if you take out World War II.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": My friend Bill O'Reilly is completely full of --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And the big loser in this debate may have been the viewer because so many people tried to watch it online and it crashed the live stream. It was very hard to get the thing going -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you very much.

President Obama in full campaign mode this week starting with a speech on Sunday at a star studded rally in Los Angeles. There will be performances from Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry, a number of other A- listers.

The president used the occasion to poke fun at his recent disastrous debate performance. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These guys and everybody here, incredible professionals, they're such great friends and they just perform flawlessly, night after night. I can't always say the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is on the offense, taking Friday's September jobs report, which the White House touts as a triumph and turning that against the president. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED GILLESPIE, SENIOR ADVISER, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: This economy is not doing well and the fact that you have a White House celebrating an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent with 23 million Americans out of work or unemployed or underemployed, tells you a lot about the failure of this administration's policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: This, of course, leading up to Thursday night's first and only vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan joins us this morning.

He is from the crucial swing state of Ohio where an appeals court decided on Friday that early voting will be reinstated for the three days that lead up to Election Day. It's nice to see you. Thank you for taking with us. We appreciate it.

REPRESENTATIVE TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about polls, shall we? Thank you. Appreciate that. Let's draw up a Gallup poll to start with. You can see in the time since the debate, it looks as if Mitt Romney has gained points.

President Obama has lost points. I think you guys have the wrong poll up there. I have September 30th to October 7th and then October 4th through 6th as you can see, early on, the president leading by five points, now neck and neck.

And then if you take a look at what did a better job in last week's debate, that was a poll question, Republicans say no surprise, 97 percent think it was Mitt Romney who did a better job.

I'm wondering who the 2 percent of Republicans who thought President Obama -- that would be -- independents, 70 percent. Throw that poll up again, guys, because I think that's a critical number.

How worried are you about the 70 percent number and how is this going to translate into support? Are you going to see a shift in this polling and this is big problem for President Obama?

RYAN: I don't really think so. That's a snapshot in time. I think in Ohio especially, which is a key state and the first poll I think you showed was a national poll. It's the swing state polling on an individual state basis that's really going to matter.

And here in Ohio, Obama has a great record. He slapped tariffs on Chinese products coming over, that helped job creation right here in Ohio, not to mention the auto industry rescue package.

And we've had thousands of jobs that have been created, in my congressional district, 4,500 jobs at a General Motors plant that makes the Chevy Cruise in Lordstown and all of the spin offs.

Obama is going to be judged on his record here. 30 plus months of growth, job growth, we're no -- no one is celebrating this. No one think we're where we need to be, but in Ohio we're in a significantly better position than we were in 2008 and 2009. O'BRIEN: But, you know, we don't have a good post-debate poll in Ohio and you could look at the post-debate poll that we do have, as you point out is national. And say, well if that's happening across the country, it's not insane to think that could, obviously, happen in Ohio as well.

Here's the Attorney General Mike Dewine. He was talking about how he thinks this is going to help the debate is really going to help Governor Romney in the state of Ohio. Let me play that for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: Romney's going to carry Ohio. It's going to be a very, very close race but this race fundamentally changed Wednesday night in Ohio at least.

I think did it across the country. Yesterday, we had 150,000 doors that were knocked on just in one day in Ohio. We have great energy. The governor's going to win this state. It's going to be close. He's going to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He said race fundamentally changed on Wednesday. He's talking about the debate.

RYAN: Yes. I don't think so. I'm not feeling it on the ground. I've been here in Ohio. I don't really feel it. I think people definitely have an opinion about how the debate went, but at the end of the day it's going to matter about what policies.

If Mitt Romney is going to privatize the Medicare program and turn it into a voucher system, and the voucher only goes up two or 3% a year when everyone knows health care costs don't go up 2 percent or 3 percent a year, or gut the Medicaid program.

We were a he an older state. We have a lot of seniors that access the Medicaid programs for nursing homes, a lot of people who have children with disabilities access the Medicaid program here in Ohio.

When they see the Romney/Ryan budget when it hits the ground, he's going to lose. He's just not going to be able to carry enough independent voters. As I said on top of the auto rescue, we have people that have actually felt the Obama policies help them.

Right down the supply chain in the auto industry here, you can go to places like the logistics company, the trucking company, the seat manufacturer, all the way down the line have benefited.

And they know, I was out at the plant gate the other day, they know it was Obama sticking his neck out in 2009 to make sure that GM didn't go bankrupt and the autos didn't go bankrupt.

O'BRIEN: I will be curious to see --

RYAN: -- and Romney was on the wrong side of that. O'BRIEN: I'll be curious to see how the polling actually does when there is a good -- right? We're too close to the debate. We didn't have the good post-debate polls in the state of Ohio yet to really flush that out.

BERMAN: Any swing state poll after the debate, except in Colorado, which still shows Obama with a four-point be edge there?

CONWAY: In Ohio we were in the field before the debate and I was in Cincinnati very recently, I think the key here is that the undecided vote is so female.

And women have told pollsters for decades and they mean it they look at the last events of the campaigns, the conventions and the debates, I think those are much more important this year to these undecided, independent suburban swing women.

Because they're inundated in a place like Ohio with the outside money and messages, and so here's your clear shot without anybody else telling you how to think and what to know to see these two men.

And women before last Wednesday, Soledad, never really looked upon President Obama as despondent or disinterested, maybe no joy on the job, heart not in it, and that was a real wake-up call for them.

And I don't -- this wasn't just a gaffe. People make gaffes in these debates. We've talked about gaffes of the past presidential debate. This was 90 minutes of nothing --

O'BRIEN: It's 90 minutes worth. When "SNL" is doing a parody of you it's never a good thing.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF GLOBALGRIND.COM: The notion that Obama doesn't want the job is a horrible notion.

O'BRIEN: Kind of said it.

CONWAY: He has no joy on the job.

SKOLNIK: This is a very difficult job. The president has worked his darnedest to do a great job in the past four years. This idea that the president, you know, got in front of the television didn't look like he was presidential or another four years, this man has worked hard to get this country out of recession.

CONWAY: I said it was despondent, altitude sickness or lack of preparation? I could tell you women are going to reject that. They don't like to be insulted.

O'BRIEN: You know what? We will see what women accept and reject when we see some polls and when we do, Congressman Ryan, we'll bring you back because I would love to walk through the polls.

I think we will see some shift, but I won't predict it yet until we see. Thank you for talking with us, sir. We appreciate your time. Of course, you can watch complete coverage of Thursday's vice presidential debate right on CNN and cnn.com. It starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Got to take a break, but still ahead this morning, remember when everybody was poking fun at Clint Eastwood about that empty chair at the RNC. We'll tell you why "The New Yorker," Ryan Lizza is getting in on the invisible action. That's straight ahead.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Clint Eastwood's address at the RNC raised a lot of eyebrows because of this scene when he was talking to an empty chair.

The chair, of course, represented President Obama. This week's cover of "The New Yorker" picks up on that theme, a commentary about the president's performance at last week's debate against Mitt Romney.

Why don't you since you work for "The New Yorker" Ryan Lizza, put that cover up again?

LIZZA: This is Barry Blitz, one of -- I think one of the most -- a lot of people, one of my favorite cartoonists at "The New Yorker," he famously in 2008 did a cover that was controversial of Barack and Michele Obama in the oval office, remember this -- the terrorist misstep.

Happen to have a piece in that issue, sort of overshadowed ahead on this issue. But yes, I think he captured what everyone's reaction to that debate was.

O'BRIEN: Not the 2 percent of Republicans.

CONWAY: The 70 percent of independents that thought Romney won --

LIZZA: I love the Jim Lehrer detail on this.

CONWAY: And your cartoonist quoted as saying he never realized how difficult it would be to caricature furniture. He learned a new lesson.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see back to the poll numbers, we heard obviously Congressman Ryan saying you get the -- no effect at all in that debate. I think --

LIZZA: We don't have the data yet. Everyone is like --

SKOLNIK: Waiting --

LIZZA: Dying for the first poll.

CONWAY: Here's the thing.

O'BRIEN: You're a pollster. CONWAY: That's right. Here's the thing too. The last 2 minutes of anything, everybody here has spoken, you speak for a living. When you're told you have a two-minute close, that's got to be perfect, though.

It's got to be devoid of any hesitation, perfect. You have to look at the man in the mirror and practice it. Content, plan B, so I feel even there, there was a certain lacking.

O'BRIEN: I thought the close was a metaphor for the 90 minutes. It was just like -- nothing there.

LIZZA: These debates are all about expectations and after a disastrous debate you go into the next debate and people think he can't even talk now. The expectation theme in the next --

CONWAY: None of it would have mattered as much had people not been gleefully and single minded calling the race over three weeks before the debate.

O'BRIEN: I agree with that.

SKOLNIK: I was on that bandwagon.

O'BRIEN: I've taken the wheels off your wagon. People declare the end and it all restarts.

CONWAY: Voters hate being told what to do and how to think.

O'BRIEN: I agree with you.

CONWAY: Voters ask themselves who can lead.

SKOLNIK: I agree. The Democrats, folks may look at this and say we have to go to work, 30 days to the election. We have to go to work. This isn't going to be so easy.

LIZZA: Complacency was setting in.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a former Harvard professor who spent his life advising and inspiring entrepreneurs had a brush with death.

He changed the life of one of his former students who has written a book about the famed professor. The author will join us live up next. It's nice to see you. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

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BERMAN: All right, check this out, fresh lava and ash spewing from a volcano in north eastern Indonesia. Volatility has continued since yesterday's eruption. People who live within a mile and a half from the volcano have been warned to limit their time outside.

Good advice, a major drug bust for two coast guard cutters off the coast of Florida. Officers seized an estimated $38 million worth of cocaine and marijuana from suspected smugglers. In one case smugglers dumped 55 pails of marijuana overboard, but officers fished all of it out of the water.

Critics didn't like it, but everyone else seems to. The Liam Neeson sequel "Taken 2" took the top spot in the Box Office with $50 million. "Hotel Transylvania" was second. "Pitch Perfect" came in third.

O'BRIEN: I want to see Hotel Transylvania.

BERMAN: I see a movie a year.

O'BRIEN: I'm being told it's about a cappella singers.

A new book is out this week in the classic spirit of professor student mentor stories like "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Last Lecture. Eric Sinoway writes about his former Harvard Business School professor.

His name is Howard Stevenson and his book is inspired by Stevenson's heart attack scare back in 2006. Here's a little of what Eric writes.

At the moment that I learned Howard had cheated death I made a subconscious decision to capture of the wisdom that Howard had been effortlessly dispensing and to share that wisdom with people who'd never have the chance to learn from him directly.

The book is called "Howard's Gift." Author, Eric Sinoway, joins us this morning. It's nice to have you. Who was Howard -- who is, he's still alive, Howard Stevenson and what was his gift?

ERIC SINOWAY, AUTHOR, "HOWARD'S GIFT": Sure. I've been really blessed in my life, Soledad, to have two amazing mentors. One is Kirk (inaudible), my business partner at Access Worldwide. The other is Howard Stevenson.

Howard is an iconic figure at Harvard Business School. He's taught for 40 years, taught tens of thousands of students. One of whom we're talking about quite a bit nowadays, Mitt Romney.

His gift is to help folks chart not just success, which is what you think about at a place like Harvard Business School, but also satisfaction and fulfilment in their career and lives.

O'BRIEN: You really don't think about Harvard Business School teaching as satisfaction and fulfilment. So success and satisfaction you say in the book is not the same thing at all.

SINOWAY: Sure. The premise of the book really is that Howard had seen over decades people who were immensely successful and yet were not satisfied. And when he died, he had unintended cardiac arrest, which is a type of heart attack that has less than 1 percent survival rate.

I mean, he died. His heart was stopped for four minutes. A number of ordinary people came together and did some extraordinary things that saved his life. When I went and saw him as he recovered, obviously very emotional, he said he was totally satisfied with his life. He had sort of charted a way to achieve satisfaction not just success.

O'BRIEN: The book is a series of essays combined with stories about sort of Howard's strategies about how to not only be successful in your business, but sort of happy with where you are.

There's one page where he's talking about a former student. He says it's cheating at solitaire. That's why that student who wanted to get ahead was struggling. Explain what cheating at solitaire is.

SINOWAY: Yes, I love that phrase. Solitaire is a game obviously many of us played as children. When we don't have the cards to win we take them and cheat and there's no real consequence.

At the end of the day, you're cheating yourself. Howard has found that so many tell themselves that they have the skills and abilities to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

When an objective assessment would conclude they have not. The reality is when you do that as an adult you're setting yourself up to be disappointed in your careers.

O'BRIEN: The rule still apply, this book is full of a lot of rules. The rules apply in a down market. People say get a job. Hold on to that job. Think those rules still apply?

SINOWAY: Yes, I don't know if we'd call them rules, but we do think there's an untold story of the great recession. That story is the election is obviously about the economy. The economy is obviously about jobs.

There's been huge discourse at this table and others about the unemployed. But what we think is the silent victims of the great recession are those who do have jobs.

And there's millions, perhaps tens of millions of people whose careers have been stunted, whose ambitions have been slowed, whose dreams have been unfulfilled because of stagnant economy. We think that this book and Howard's wisdom will help those people chart forward.

O'BRIEN: I got to write an essay I should say, which I know this much about business, but I did give --

SINOWAY: Well, the book's not a business book, which is why we asked you and others to be in it.

O'BRIEN: It's a life book.

SINOWAY: Yes, a variety of everyday people as well. We think it hopefully will appeal to millions of people searching not only for success in these difficult times but also for satisfaction.

O'BRIEN: Uncommon wisdom to inspire your life's work, "Howard's Gift," Eric Sinoway. It's nice to have with you us this morning. We certainly appreciate it. You bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, freezing temperatures blast part of the United States. Literally it just turned fall. Are warmer days ahead in our future or are we right into winter?

Plus, Mitt Romney talking tough on foreign policy, talking about Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, of course, could his speech today add to the post-debate momentum for the Romney campaign? We'll talk about that when we're back. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: Our starting point, arctic blast, freezing temperatures and snow stunned parts of the U.S. this weekend and fall has just started. Is relief from the cold in sight?