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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Sandusky Faces Sentencing Hearing; Supersonic Skydive On Hold; Polls Tightening in Presidential Race; Interview with Dick Durbin

Aired October 9, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- waiting to see what's happening with that 23-mile skydive. Daredevil Felix Baumgartner was hoping to try to enter the record books this morning.

Let's see those pictures. Pretty amazing.

We're not sure if it the launch is going to happen. Weather seems to be an issue. They're making those decisions now. We'll bring that to you when it happens.

A packed show ahead for you. Famed attorney Gloria Allred is going to join us. Daredevil Nik Wallenda will talk a little bit about Baumgartner's dive.

Senator Dick Durbin is our guest as well. And singer Ashanti, and New York Knicks assistant general manager and former player Allan Houston is going to be joining us as well.

It's Tuesday, October 9th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome.

Our team this morning: Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker". Roland Martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV One. Will Cain -- enough -- is a columnist for TheBlaze.com. John Berman is with us as well from "EARLY START."

Enough, you two. I'll have to separate you.

Less than an hour to go before we hear what happens with Penn State football coach -- former, I should say -- Jerry Sandusky. He's finding his fate out today in a sentencing hearing. He's expected in court any moment. The convicted child predator released an audiotape from behind bars last night, proclaiming his innocence, blaming his downfall on one of his victims and what he calls a well-orchestrated conspiracy.

Susan Candiotti has been covering this story for us now for months. She's in Bellefonte Pennsylvania. Also a preview of what one of the victims is going to say in court when he gets a chance as well. Good morning, Susan. SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Yes, Jerry Sandusky wanted his voice heard in public before the sentencing and now he has done it. He is laying the blame for what happened to him at a number of people's feet, including investigators, the family, Penn State. Yes, even the victims. And though jurors found him guilty, he insists he did not do it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JERRY SANDUSKY, CONVICTED CHILD PREDATOR: They can take away my life. They can make me out as a monster. They can treat me as a monster, but they can't take away my heart. In my heart, I know I did not do these alleged, disgusting acts. My wife has been my only sex partner, and that was after marriage.

The young man who was dramatic, a veteran accuser and always sought attention, started everything. He was joined by a well-orchestrated effort of the media, investigator, the system, Penn State, psychologists, civil attorneys and other accusers. They won.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Soledad, jurors will also have an opportunity to speak in court and some of them will. Some are submitting statements to the court, which will be read into the record by prosecutors but others have chosen to face Jerry Sandusky directly and will also read statements.

We have an excerpt from one of those statements. Victim number five. Here is what he will say, in part. Quote, "I hope and pray that when Your Honor sentences Mr. Sandusky that you consider the real harm he has done to me and others, and take into account the tears, pain and private anguish I and others have suffered.

And, of course, there will also be letters from supporters of Jerry Sandusky also read into the record or put into the record -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, in his head, Susan, he has himself versus the young man who was a dramatic veteran accuser, as he calls him in that clip we just played and also with him, the media, investigators, Penn State, the system, psychologists, civil attorneys, other accusers. Why did he put out this statement? What was the strategy or the rationale behind this?

CANDIOTTI: Well, you know, Soledad, I learned there was a meeting yesterday in chambers. And during that meeting, the judge made it abundantly clear that Jerry Sandusky was not to criticize the system that tried and convicted him.

Now, having said that, we now know what happened next. A statement was made available. His defense attorneys helped make that happen, given to a radio station and they played that very criticism that he was told not to speak. His attorneys say, hey, there's a First Amendment free speech. He should be allowed to say what he wants to say and so he did. It's interesting to see in court whether this comes up in any way, shape or form. Certainly, prosecutors were demanding to be able to cross examine him but normally, that doesn't happen during this kind of phase with an allocution -- back to you.

O'BRIEN: Really interesting to see what he ends up actually saying when he is in court today. Susan Candiotti has been covering the story for us for a long time -- thank you, Susan. Appreciate it.

Let's get right to Gloria Allred. She's a victims' rights attorney. Nice to see you, Gloria. You know what's both like --

GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: -- shocking and breathtaking about this is that just absolutely, I am the victim, is what he's saying, and then lists everybody else who, for some reason, would be conspiring against him.

Susan said part of the strategy was he was going to be allowed to say that in the courtroom. So, he's kind of getting it out and getting it on the record first. Do you think that this -- how do you think that impacts what will happen in the courtroom today?

ALLRED: Well, I think that it was a desperate attempt to get sympathy. I don't think it's going to get anywhere with the judge. The judge is the one that is going to do the sentencing. And, you know, he tries to attack what he calls the alleged accuser, and others. These are victims. He suggests that maybe the children from the Second Mile, perhaps, have issues, as he calls them.

Well, often predators do prey on children, do prey on victims who have issues. They are the most vulnerable. And that is why they get preyed upon. They are targeted because they are vulnerable.

So that is really, to me, disgusting that he said it. It's offensive that he said it. And in addition, he tries to suggest that there were financial motives.

Certainly, victims do have a right to be compensated in the civil justice system if, in fact, there has been a conviction in the criminal justice system, and sometimes even if there hasn't been a prosecution or a conviction, that doesn't mean that they were not telling the truth because they are seeking financial compensation.

O'BRIEN: Early this morning, Gloria, I was talking to Jeffrey Fritz. He's the attorney for victim number four, as that young man is now known. Here's what he was telling me his client would say in court today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY FRITZ, ATTORNEY FOR SANDUSKY VICTIM #4: His reaction is that of anger. And he will demonstrate to the court and tell the court and tell Jerry Sandusky what these crimes have done to him, his family and the lives of all the victims.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What kind of an impact could that have on the judge? And how much time, realistically, do you think that Jerry Sandusky could get?

ALLRED: Well, he's going to get many, many years in prison. I would say that it's highly likely that he could spend the rest of his life in prison, unless and until, of course, if the case is reversed on appeal, which I don't think is likely but it's always possible. But because he's convicted of multiple counts involving sexual abuse, then I think that he can get a very, very lengthy sentence.

O'BRIEN: You know, you obviously deal with victims all the time in your work. What happens for these young people? Many of these young men are 26, 27, 28, right now. Do they feel a sense of closure? Can they move forward once today passes and Sandusky goes off to jail for prison forever, or does it just never end for them? What have you seen?

ALLRED: There's still a child inside of them. There's still a young child who has often a vivid memory of the abuse, and sometimes these memories are sharper and more in focus than others. For many of them today, maybe one of those days, where it is more in focus because it's hard not to think about what has been done to them. Some of them may have been in therapy for years, some of them may not have been in therapy but really needed the therapy and need it now.

So, no, I think it isn't a matter of forgetting. It's a matter of trying to process it, trying to put it in perspective. And it's really important that they have the support team, their therapist, their family, their friends, their co-workers, whoever can be there for them, their lawyers. And to know that there is some justice. And that's important, because many child sexual abuse victims can never feel that they've won any kind of justice.

But here, instead of always being on the defensive, as a victim, they are moving from victim to survivor and for some of them, perhaps, fighters for change.

O'BRIEN: Gloria Allred this morning -- thank you, Gloria. Nice to see you. Appreciate your time.

ALLRED: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: John Berman has got a look at some of the other stories making news today. What have you got for us?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad.

A lot of news this morning. It is a skydive on steroids. Right now though in Roswell, New Mexico, the record-setting jump is on hold due to weather. Special ballooning capsule is scheduled to carry Felix Baumgartner to the edge of space, for a return trip 23 miles straight down at a speed of nearly 700 miles an hour.

This guy is jumping or wants to. We'll talk to daredevil Nik Wallenda about Baumgartner's attempt in just a few minutes.

Now, to a stunning number in that scary meningitis outbreak. Some 13,000 people may have received contaminated steroid injections, which means a lot more cases are still possible. Eight people have now died in this outbreak, 105 other people in nine states are infected. The CDC says 75 medical facilities in 23 states received the bad drug behind the infections. The company that makes the medication has now recalled it.

We're going to show you a live look now at Athens, Greece, where protests have been taking place this morning. It looks calm but a lot of people on the streets. Security is very tight for Angela Merkel's visit there today. The German chancellor is very unpopular in Greece. She's considered the enforcer of drastic austerity cuts imposed by the European Union. Merkel's visit comes as Greek government officials attempt to pass another $17 billion in austerity cuts to qualify for more bailout money. Things getting hot there in Greece.

President Obama and Mitt Romney will both campaign today in Ohio, a key battleground state. Two new national polls show the race basically tied at this point. A poll by the Pew Research Center taken after the debate gives Mitt Romney a four-point lead over President Obama, 49 percent to 45 percent. Last month that same poll had Romney trailing the president by eight points.

But there is some good news from the president. The latest Gallup tracking poll has him leading Romney by five points. Some of that survey taken before the debate, but a lot of it taken after. President Obama has a new campaign ad today starring Big Bird. It was produced after Mitt Romney declared he'd cut funding for PBS during last week's debate. The spot is laced with sarcasm, the Obama camp casting the Sesame Street character as an evil, corporate fiend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA FOR AMERICA)

AD NARRATOR: Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Dennis Kozlowski, criminals, glutens of greed -- and the evil genius who towered over them? One man has the guts to speak his name.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Big Bird. Big Bird. Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: It's me, Big Bird.

AD NARRATOR: Big, yellow, a menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about, it's Sesame Street.

ROMNEY: I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS.

AD NARRATOR: Mitt Romney taking on the enemy no matter where they nest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER) BERMAN: Now the Republicans quickly fired back with the graphic of its own called Campaign Street, says the recent campaign appearances. There have been eight mentions of Big Bird, five mentions of Elmo, zero mentions of Libya and zero plans to fix the economy. The Republican argument here is the president's ad, the Big Bird references are small. They're looking big.

I do have to say, every time that ad has been played this morning, everyone has erupted in laughter.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That chart is not close --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's very funny. Very funny. John, thank you. You think he's sinister, Big Bird?

BERMAN: Looking.

O'BRIEN: My son may disagree with you on that.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, this man is trying to break the sound barrier, daredevil Felix Baumgartner. Will he jump? Will he not? Depending on the weather.

We're going to talk daredevil tightrope walker -- will you stop? Nik Wallenda is our guest up next. He knows a little bit about scary moments and taking risks.

Also, did you see this? A QVC host faints. She's in the middle of selling stuff. Look at that. She passes out. Her co-host's reaction even more surprising. We're going to share with you what happened next.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at some live pictures from Roswell, New Mexico, where there's this planned 23-mile high skydive, but it's now on hold because of the weather. It's no wonder the Austrian daredevil is going for the attempt. He's known as fearless Felix, maybe not fearless about the weather.

It all goes according to plan, though, he is expected to complete a record-making sound barrier breaking skydive today above Roswell. We're going to have to wait and see, of course, because I think they're supposed to make their decision in the next hour. They'll be able to say whether or not they're going to go forward with it or scrap it all together.

Nik Wallenda is also a daredevil, a world renowned tightrope walker was the first man to ever cross Niagara Fall from United States into Canada on a little tiny rope. He joins us this morning. Nice to see you. Would you ever do something like this put on a space suit and really drop from 23 miles? NIK WALLENDA, HIGH WIRE ARTIST: You know, I don't know if I'd exactly re-create something like this, but I have many dreams of doing different events, different stunts that definitely test the limits.

I think all of us, dare daredevils, have something inside of us that we really desire to inspire people and to prove that the human body can withstand more than you'd ever imagine. And I really commend Felix for taking on this amazing achievement.

O'BRIEN: It's really risky. You know, they talk about -- I'm going to read some of the stuff for you, because it's gross, honestly. The temperature can reach negative 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The vacuum can turn your body fluids into gas and you could, potentially, reach a lethal spin rate.

And that's not even the full list of bad stuff that can happen when you do something like this. You know, you take on these risks. I'm sure there's a long list for the things that you're attempting as well where people are saying Nik, here are all the risks you're incurring. What makes you go forward with it?

WALLENDA: You know, I think it's something inside of us. You know, the things they don't talk about are all the science and engineering that go behind these events. You know, the study and the research they've done over the last -- well, actually, someone has done an event similar to this.

I believe it was about in the 1960s. So, probably about 60 years ago, someone had done this, not from this high. I believe it was about 102,000 feet. So, it's been done before. So, they have past practice. And again, all the studying and research that goes into something like this is something that you really don't hear.

It's always the negative, and that's part of what we do is building drama. We're daredevils after all.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What you describing is actually what -- your blood begins to boil if any of this air -- I guess, he has like an airtight suit. But if air gets in, his blood can begin to boil. Nik, that's interesting. You talked about how much research goes into this. What do you think something like this costs, this jump project he's put together?

WALLENDA: You know, I have no idea what it would cost and how much research they've actually done on it. I know it's quite vast. And I would say, you know, easily in the millions of dollars that go into an event like this.

CAIN: Yes. John points that Red Bull is behind this.

WALLENDA: Yes.

CAIN: Fascinating. How long does it take him to fall? Twenty-three miles --

O'BRIEN: Fifteen minutes. (CROSSTALK)

WALLENDA: Yes. Between 10 and 15 minutes, actually, freefall until he's about 5,000 feet above earth's surface. While he's out there, he'll actually see the curvature of the earth, which is pretty amazing.

BERMAN: You know, no human being has ever broken the sound barrier falling. It does, you know, out of an airplane or spacecraft before -- they don't know how that will affect you, when you break the sound barrier, plummeting to earth.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- right, because it's really the weather that's holding it up at this moment. So, all this , you know, science put on hold for something like weather. But Nik, let me ask you a question. The next thing you're going to do is to try to walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope.

WALLENDA: That's correct. That is one of my dreams, and that's something that will be coming up, most likely next June. I'll be the first person in the world to walk directly over the Grand Canyon.

O'BRIEN: How far is that? How far across is that?

WALLENDA: It's over half a mile. We've had to choose a location that is somewhat TV friendly. There are spots where I could go eight or nine miles, which is really what I wanted to do. But it would take, you know, eight, ten hours and probably get fairly boring for viewers at that point.

O'BRIEN: I don't know that that would ever get boring to watch you cross the Grand Canyon. So, that's going to happen next summer. And what are you doing to prepare for that?

WALLENDA: You know, a lot of training. I've got a lot of events. I'm actually doing the Bank of America 500, which is the next NASCAR race in charlotte This saturday and many, many other events that I'll be doing leading up to that as well as the training for that eve is pretty rigorous.

I'll be training here in Sarasota, actually, for that. And, the exciting thing about it is that I've found a network partner, which we haven't announced yet, but I will not be wearing a tether for that one.

O'BRIEN: Oh my God!

CAIN: On your Grand Canyon walk?

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: On your Grand Canyon walk or your NASCAR walk, Nik?

WALLENDA: On the Grand Canyon walk -- CAIN: No tether on the Grand Canyon walk.

O'BRIEN: No, no, no --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLENDA: My network partner came in last minute and told me I had to wear it for Niagara Falls, but we found one and signed an agreement where I will not be wearing one for the Grand Canyon.

O'BRIEN: You're now scaring me, man. How about a big net right over the Grand Canyon? I'm fine without the tether if you have the net.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes. Your blood will be fine. Nik Wallenda, nice to have you with us this morning. Appreciate that.

WALLENDA: Thanks for having me on.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead this morning --

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He can't get any insurance.

O'BRIEN: Isn't that crazy?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Like, what makes someone do that?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: He doesn't want to wear the tether. Oh my gosh!

All right. Still ahead, every student's fantasy. We'll tell you why one high school has banned homework. Just testing for the next couple of years. It's today's "Tough Call." Don't forget, you can watch us live on your computer or your mobile phone when you're at work. Go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business."

U.S. stock futures basically unchanged right now. Companies begin reporting their third quarter earnings. That's adding to uncertainty already weighing heavily on markets. No question company earnings and global economies are slowing. The International Monetary Fund lowered its forecast for global growth for next year.

Now, it expects the U.S. economy to grow at about two percent. Euro Zone, 0.2 percent, that's basically not growing and China, 8.2 percent. One major risk the IMF cites, the fiscal cliff. It takes Congress to fix it. That's why 60 percent of money managers and investment strategists surveyed by CNNMoney say that the Congressional elections are more important for stocks than who wins the presidential election.

The fiscal cliff, of course, is automatic massive spending cuts and tax increases of about $3,500 on average per family. Congress is running out of time, Soledad, to fix it.

O'BRIEN: Yes. How often have we said that? Congress is running out of time.

LIZZA: They're not doing anything, though, unless they're running out of time.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's sort of true, isn't it?

BERMAN: Sometimes, they still don't do anything.

O'BRIEN: Even after they run out of time.

MARTIN: Late, late, late.

O'BRIEN: All right. Our "Tough Call" this morning, one high school in Germany, Elsa Branstrom (ph), high school in North Rhine-Westphalia is banning homework. Here's why. They've done array with one year of high school, so students now spend longer days in their classroom up until 6:00 p.m.

So, it comes out to a 44-hour, you know, workweek or school week, if you will, doing away with homework now to test it out. They want to give kids a chance to unwind a bit. And the quote is this. The teacher, head teacher says, "No child would be having their free time dominated by doing school work. They'll do more of their school work in class.

LIZZA: Forty-four-hour school week, they better not have homework.

MARTIN: I like it, because at the end of the day, they're in a structured environment, and that's really what the focus is. And so, you know, we could actually learn from that as opposed to saying, oh, leave. Go away, and then, we'll see what happens. Come back, you don't have your homework.

CAIN: My oldest kid is four years old now. All three of you have older kids. I'm terrified of the day when he brings home two hours with homework and I have to help with it. That's my job --

O'BRIEN: Welcome to my reality. It's really hard. I have four kids, right? So, you're sitting there like going in between. The little guys don't have that much homework.

BERMAN: It's a little learning when you hear we're testing it on the kids. What about these kids if the test fails? There's two years at kids in its German school. Well, what's going to happen to them? ROMANS: The European model is pretty interesting, though. They don't believe in having these big gaps of time off. They think that you don't retain the information. So, if you look -- for France, for example, they'll have a short holiday in the summer, but they'll have half Saturdays. Kids will go to school half of the --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: -- Chicago is going in that direction.

MARTIN: John, we flip it. What if it works? Not if it fails? Don't be so American. What if it works?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: They're guinea pigs every day. Parenting is basically guinea pigging.

Jerry Sandusky is what we're talking about this morning. He's expected --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- to arrive in court this hour, Jerry Sandusky. We'll have details on what's going to happen there straight ahead.

Plus, Mitt Romney getting a big bump in the poll, making the race for the White House even tighter. Can he maintain the post debate bounce? Will the president make a comeback? We're going to be talking to Senator Dick Durbin straight ahead.

Plus, a rough day for QVC host who passes out on camera, but it's what her co-host does that's actually even more shocking. We'll show you, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. You're looking at Centre County courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Jerry Sandusky is expecting to arrive at that courthouse any moment. We're watching that. He will find out if he will spend the rest of his life in prison for molesting young boys. We're expecting to hear from him in a statement that's supposed expected to last somewhere between five and ten minutes. And also victims, at least three will be making statements to the court this morning, two to Mr. Sandusky, to his face and a third at the very least will be read by prosecutors. We're obviously watching this story for you and will bring it to you when it happens.

Other stories making news, John has that for us.

BERMAN: Roswell, New Mexico, supersonic skydive on hold due to weather. Felix Baumgartner will be carried to the edge of space, 23 miles up and then jump. If you think that sounds risky, it is.

Other news, New York courtroom for Muslim cleric accused of terrorism, known for his radical anti-western sermons delivered for years at a London mosque, was extradited from Britain to the U.S. along with four other men. He faces 11 counts of terror-related charges, including conspiring to create a jihadist training camp in Oregon. Al Masri praised Osama bin Laden in the 9/11 attacks, once even called him a hero.

George Zimmerman's mother is speaking publicly for the first time about her son's role in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Gladys Zimmerman appeared last night with Piers Morgan in disguise -- she was in disguised, not piers. She blamed the media for false perceptions of her son and has a message for Trayvon Martin's mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLADYS ZIMMERMAN, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S MOTHER: He is sorry for what has happened. It is a tremendous tragedy for both families and I'm very sorry for the loss of their son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Zimmerman's mother says she believes in the U.S. justice system and in her son's innocence.

Take a look at this. A wacky play from last night's Yankees-Orioles playoff game. You're looking at a double down the line. That's Ichiro Suzuki. He should have been out by a mile. Matt Wieters seems to have missed the tag. Make it is back and scores. Amazing play. Look at that. Nimble man that gave the Yankees the lead. But the o's came back and won. John Jay chasing this fly ball to center field, crashed into the wall there, an amazing grab. Carlos Beltran had two home runs in this game, 12-4 win. Series goes back to Washington, D.C. for the first playoff game in the nation's capital in 79 years. They'll be enjoying that there.

This was a scary moment on QVC when guest host Cassie Slain, on to sell an Android tablet for kids, faints on live TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, you know -- it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK? OK. What it does, it gives us an opportunity

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I'm not sure if you can hear that right there. What was happening even as the cameras cut away, the co-host doesn't skip a beat. She's fainting. He's going on selling, pitching. Slain posted on her Facebook page she's feeling a lot better. Another QVC co-host said she was suffering from low blood sugar.

O'BRIEN: The show must go on.

MARTIN: Always be closing. Fainting? Whatever. Keep closing.

LIZZA: Soledad, if that ever happens to you, I just want you to know --

O'BRIEN: I pass out on the floor and you'll jump in?

MARTIN: We'll take over.

O'BRIEN: I've been a TV anchor for a little while. I know that to be the case.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Let's talk polls, shall we? Romney campaign and supporters celebrating this morning pew research poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama 49 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. More people sampled identified themselves as Republicans than Democrats, and the opposite of that was true last month when the Pew Research Center conducted this poll, which had better news for the Obama campaign. In Gallup's daily tracking poll, the president is still leading by five points. Some pre-debate numbers are factored in there, though.

Let's get right to Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. He's an Obama campaign surrogate. Thanks for talking with us.

SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: Sure. Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate that. Andrew Sullivan has an article in "The Daily Beast," the headline is "Did Obama just throw the entire election away?" And it gets worse from there. Tell me a little bit about if you think, in fact, that this polling you're seeing -- the polling is literally due to what happened that night in the debate.

DURBIN: We've always said it would be a close election, and I believe it will be. And I'm, of course disappointed with the debate. Believe the president understands his challenge now. He was shocked and surprised. Many of us were. Mitt Romney came on that set at the first debate and said things which completely contradicted what he said in the campaign before. I think it caught him a little bit by surprise. He won't be surprised again.

O'BRIEN: You cannot tell me that his poor debate performance was he was sitting there, stunned in front of the American public as opposed to presenting his side of the argument. People have talked a little bit about the air, pressure from the high altitude. People have talked about a lack of practice. Certainly can't be I was just stunned, standing there, listening.

DURBIN: I'll just tell you that the president understands the challenge of the debates. More importantly, he understands the challenges that face us in our country. Take a look at what happened just a few days after the debate. The good news that we received about the increase in jobs in the private sector, the fact that the unemployment nationally had gone below eight percent, 31 straight months of private sector job creation. That is the kind of good news that I think will have more lasting, staying power than any one single debate. O'BRIEN: So now Mitt Romney has sort of changed his tune on that. Before, as you know, in the campaign they would talk about how the unemployment number was above eight percent and the president's people had said it would be below. Now that it's below, he's saying this. Let me run a chunk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: We have seen the slowest recovery from a recession in history. Matter of fact, I just read if you look back 60 years and you look at all the months we had with unemployment above eight percent before President Obama, there were 39 months. In all 60 years with unemployment over eight percent, with this president it had been 43 months, under one president alone. He does not understand what it takes to create a real recovery. I do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's the new take on the numbers going below 8 percent. Is the president still vulnerable then he they frame it that way?

DURBIN: I have a simple question for Governor Romney. Would those numbers be better or worse if we would have followed your advice and allowed the American automobile industry to tank? Remember, he said step away. Let them go bankrupt. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were created because of President Obama's leadership.

And now here is Governor Romney saying, I know the way to create jobs. He would have destroyed jobs across the Midwest and across America by allowing the automobile industry, major players, GM and Chrysler, to go bankrupt. The George W. Bush economic policy created this recession. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when President Obama came to office. We have created more than 5 million new private sector jobs. We're moving in the right direction. Why in the world would we want to go backward?

O'BRIEN: When you look at these poll numbers outside of the big one. Look at the economy. The question was Obama doesn't know how to turn the economy around, this is the pew poll again. And 54 percent now say they agree with that. That's problematic. Pew questioned likely female voters. The numbers were heavily in the president's favor, 56 percent to Mitt Romney's 38 percent. Now that's tied. That has to be problematic for the president who has been touting his lead with female voters. If you look at whether or not you support Mitt Romney strongly, now 67 percent up from 56 percent last month. How do you turn that around, or is it just we do the vice presidential debate and that will turn the tide for the Democrats?

DURBIN: We have four weeks of vice presidential debates, two presidential debates, a lot of campaigning and some events that you and I can't even predict are going to occur in the next four weeks. But here is the bottom line. We are moving in the right direction on economic recovery. Governor Romney's approach of allowing the automobile sector to go bankrupt, stepping back and going to the old policies of George W. Bush, that isn't going to turn this economy in the right direction. It's going to turn us around and go back in the wrong direction. The American people will come to understand that. I think most of them do.

Any given poll question, Soledad, I can't tell you. Those polls are taken every day with a lot of different questions. I know that's what you base many of your questions on, the people you bring on your show. But I think I feel and I continue to feel that this campaign is moving in the right direction. In a very close election the president is going to succeed.

O'BRIEN: Senator Dick Durbin, thank you for talking with us this morning. We appreciate it.

Let's take you back to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. We have some shots there. It looks like Dottie Sandusky and her attorney has arrived and that is Jerry Sandusky's attorney. We're obviously watching what the judge is going to say today. Jerry Sandusky could get life in prison at the end of this day. He will know his fate. We will, too. We've got to take a short break. We'll continue to follow this story for you when we get back.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Some breaking news to get to.

Jerry Sandusky is making his way into the court house the Center County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. We've got pictures, we've just seen him coming in sort of a reddish jump suit as he is brought in, in cuffs.

Of course today is the day his fate will be decided. He's going to face a judge. And we're told now that the reason that he made that audiotape where he literally blamed the victims for -- for the fact that he is now found guilty in these child predator charges, he made those tapes because he felt that he wanted to get word out before he could do it in front of the judge. The judge made it clear that he wouldn't be allowed to do it today in the courtroom.

Let's get right to Susan Candiotti, she's been following this for us. Susan we saw just a moment ago Jerry Sandusky making his way into the courthouse lay out for me what's going to happen today.

CANDIOTTI: Well the first thing that's going to happen in court is that he will be designated a violent sexual offender. That's what's expected to happen. And then Jerry Sandusky will finally get to make his statement around about five to ten minutes. His wife, Dottie is also in court this day. She has submitted a written statement. And so have some of his adult children and other supporters of his.

And then it will -- there will be a chance for the victims to address Jerry Sandusky directly. Some will. Some have elected to have prosecutors to read a statement for them. And then the sentence will happen up to 400 years, perhaps, say will run back to back. More likely those sentences would be running concurrently.

Remember Jerry Sandusky is 68 years old more likely than not to be spending the rest of his life in jail.

O'BRIEN: Jerry Sandusky, we're told -- his attorneys will have ten days after the sentencing to appeal the decision.

Susan, spell out for me in that audiotape that was released from jail yesterday. He -- he -- it was bizarre, frankly, I thought, where he really blamed -- literally blamed the victims of his assault and said that he was ultimately the one who was a victim.

Explain to me why he would think that would be a good strategy for his hearing today.

CANDIOTTI: What a stunning set of circumstances here. Putting that out, his public voice, through a radio station. The judge, evidently yesterday had warned everyone that Jerry Sandusky was not to be critical of the process. So this possibly was the only other way he would be able to do that.

Now we know in a statement that he is not going to say "I am sorry." He has already said that he is not going to admit guilt. He believes he didn't do it. But for him to state that he could blame it on everyone else and extend a wider conspiracy, get that notion out there, this may be his one opportunity for quite some time to be able to get out what he wanted to say. Now --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And Susan, I should mention we were just paying -- forgive me, Susan -- I just wanted to mention that we're looking at some videotape that we're replaying of Dottie Sandusky as she arrived at the courthouse just a few minutes ago and as she's walking up into the courthouse for the start of this sentencing today.

I'm sorry for interrupting you. Carry on.

CANDIOTTI: No worries. And, as well, Jerry Sandusky wearing the red prison outfit, jumpsuit or whatever, also is shackled and it appears as though he may have a bulletproof vest on underneath that. Remember he's been very concerned about security, as they have been throughout this proceeding.

But again it will be -- I imagine the lawyers representing some of these victims have said, you know, it's a -- they always hope that the defendant in this case will say "I am sorry." And for him not to do so really blunts their ability to try to heal themselves. But these are very brave victims. It has been said time and again, to have gone through what they went through, then testified in trial and now some of them to address him directly.

This may, in fact, be a good way for them to try to heal and possibly to help other victims of sex abuse.

O'BRIEN: Oh this story has been such a horror. And again, these are pictures that we saw a little bit earlier this morning of Jerry Sandusky. And I think you're right. Susan Candiotti was saying that she thought that maybe he had a bulletproof vest under his prison garb.

And I would agree with that. It looks like that is what's under that -- that red sort of jumpsuit material.

Susan Candiotti updating us on the story this morning. Obviously she's going to continue to follow what happens in court today throughout the day. Thank you Susan, I appreciate that.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, singer Ashanti and former Knicks sharpshooter Allan Houston joining us, talking about how they're making dreams come true through the "Garden of Dreams" program. They're up next.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is --

O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. The chitchat on the set today is out of control.

MARTIN: We're talking --

O'BRIEN: I know you are. Fashion -- with all the boys talking about fashion. It's terrifying.

For nearly a quarter of a million kids in New York City, "Garden of Dreams" has been a magical opportunity to explore some of the best, biggest iconic experiences in New York City. The "Garden of Dreams Foundation" has been helping kids who are in foster care or in homeless shelters or in hospitals around the city since 2006.

So yesterday New York held an event like the many that they put on throughout the year, featuring celebrities from the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers, the Radio City Rockettes.

Two stars have been working to help give back as well. New York Knicks legend and current assistant general Allan Houston joining us today and Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter, who is now co- hosting a music show on Fuse, Ashanti. Nice to have you both with us.

ASHANTI, GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING SINGER/SONGWRITER: Thank you.

ALLAN HOUSTON, N.Y. KNICKS, ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You guys clearly in some of these pictures that we saw with the kids. You especially Ashanti so -- so much fun with these kids. Tell me about your -- your connection to "Garden of Dreams".

ASHANTTI: It's a wonderful foundation. I think just to be able to reach out to so many different foundations and help these dreams come alive, for underprivileged kids and kids in shelter homes and things like that. It creates a unique situations for kids to kind of just experience their dreams you know and being a part of that is absolutely an honor.

O'BRIEN: It's kind of this cool experiences. What they do is you sort of take all these great experiences. They can go to Radio City Music Hall. They can go to the Beacon Theater.

ASHANTI: Yes.

O'BRIEN: They go see the Knicks. They can go see the Rangers. They can go -- and some of these kids spend an entire week just running through all these experiences.

HOUSTON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about that.

HOUSTON: Well, I think you hit it on the head. Because you take all the properties of the Knicks, the Rangers, the Liberty you know and Radio City Music Hall, MSG Networks and all these brands come together to provide these once in a lifetime experiences.

And it's just you have 22 partnering organizations. Like Ashanti said, you know, you have foster homes. You know it's so much that they do from -- you know, you have hospitals, you know.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Kids who really need the help. I mean these are the kids who really need the help.

HOUSTON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Is it -- is it an experience that transcends sort of one day -- you know, we have plenty of pictures of playing some basketball with Jason Kidd.

HOUSTON: Right.

O'BRIEN: You know, outside of that, is it a lasting experience for them?

ASHANTI: I think they come back yearly, right?

HOUSTON: Yes. Yes.

ASHANTI: It's a week that they have these activities that they can do. And then making -- it's like a family that continues to grow.

HOUSTON: Yes.

ASHANTI: You begin to see the same kids over and over.

HOUSTON: Yes.

CAIN: You know I guess, Soledad, sometimes things like the New York Knicks or Ashanti for that matter seem so removed from the world. They seem like high on the mountain and I would guess this is a lasting experience. Yes. It makes it seem this is all achievable. I've now been inside the "Garden", I've interacted with Allan Houston and Ashanti. It makes life seem very, very doable, I would guess. HOUSTON: Well, the good thing -- again, it goes back to sometimes when you see Madison Square Garden you think of just kind of the Knicks/Rangers. But it takes all these, the whole brand and it kind of wraps it all together and it provides this experience.

You know, one of my favorites was the talent show on Radio City Music Hall. You have all these kids, you know, they're singing, they're dancing, they're doing poetry. Darryl Mac is hosting and you see this experience. They can walk on Radio City Music Hall and show their gifts and talents.

O'BRIEN: I just really want to meet the Rockettes. That is so my dream.

MARTIN: The Knicks had the owner's (ph) team of the NBA, did you all sign any talent up? You all need some young players now. You're all kind of old.

HOUSTON: Well, you know, you don't need as much time to do what you need to do now, when you're older.

(CROSSTALK)

HOUSTON: Speaking of the Knicks, I got something just -- I got something just for you guys. I had a feeling you were going to bring that up.

MARTIN: You know I'm a Rockets fan, but go right ahead. Jeremy Lin is now with the Rockets.

HOUSTON: We got you -- we got you covered. We got you covered. You can feel and look younger now when you think about --

O'BRIEN: I like the bling. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: My fireplace will say thank you. I'm a Houston fan.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Allan Houston and Ashanti, thank you guys. Terrific work with young people.

HOUSTON: Yes, it seemed like a great idea.

O'BRIEN: We'd love highlighting what you're doing at "Garden of Dreams". Appreciate it.

ASHANTI: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, we're also talking about this trial that we've been watching and the aftermath -- sentencing for Jerry Sandusky in court. The hearing is going to begin shortly. Here's a live look at the courthouse and Jerry Sandusky from just a few moments ago as he was making his way into the courthouse. Looks like a bulletproof vest under his prison garb. We're going to update you on what's happening there with Susan Candiotti -- straight ahead. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: As the Jerry Sandusky sentencing gets under way, let's get right to Carol Costello, who is following the story from here. Hey Carol, good morning.