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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Romney's Abortion Stance; Election Predictions

Aired October 10, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, the race can't get much closer than this. Mitt Romney gaining on the president poll after poll.

Now the running mates are getting ready to take the stage in just 24 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: And by the way, I think Paul Ryan will do great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Could Biden versus Ryan change everything? Both sides duke it out with me here. In this corner top Republican Reince Priebus and in the other corner the Democrats' Debbie Wasserman- Schultz.

Plus "Battleground America." The Obama administration on the hot seat over the deadly attack in Libya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: It was a terrorist attack. Let's be honest about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Mitt Romney charged with flip-flopping again on abortion?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm a pro-life candidate. I'll be a pro-life president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Frank Bruni and my all-star panelists go toe to toe on the question that could decide this election.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. Our big story tonight, with 27 days to go until the election, look where we stand right now. One point difference between the candidates from the latest CNN Polls of Polls, 48 percent for Mitt Romney, 47 percent for President Obama.

Anything could happen on this race, which tells you just how high the stakes are going into tomorrow's first and only vice presidential debate. Preparations underway right now at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Meanwhile Joe Biden is in Delaware tonight deep into debate preparations. Paul Ryan arriving in Kentucky a little while ago, while Mitt Romney is pounding home his message on the campaign in the battleground state of Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Over the last four years we have not had the kind of strong leadership we needed in Washington to take on our challenges. Time and again the president has told us he'd take on some of these things but it hasn't. And then he turns around and tries to blame others, Congress won't get together. Congress won't -- won't get together unless there's a strong leader that puts them together. He won't, he hasn't, I will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: In the midst of all this talk about tomorrow debate, the president is still talking about the last one. Listen to what he told Diane Sawyer on ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you have a bad game you just move on. You look forward to the next one. And it makes you that much more determined. The difference between this than sports is that the stakes are so high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: With me now to preview tomorrow's vice presidential debate is Reince Priebus. He's the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Welcome to you, sir.

REINCE PRIEBUS, GOP NATIONAL CHAIRMAN: Hey, Piers. How are you tonight?

MORGAN: So the president looks mean there. He looks like he's about to come back strong. He looks like he's realized he had a poor game and he is flexing his muscles to come at your guy. Are you frightened?

(LAUGHTER)

PRIEBUS: No. I mean, and he also said today that he thinks that he's been too polite. So maybe it just means that instead of calling Mitt Romney a liar once a day, maybe he'll call us a liar five times a day. I don't know. I just think that his message is pretty weak. He doesn't have a lot to stand on and, you know, it's kind of like, you know, I was a lawyer and it's sort of like going into a closing argument when you don't have a decent fact on your side it's tough to pull off.

But that's what he's going to try to do. And instead he's talking about Big Bird and calling his opponent, you know, liar, liar, pants on fire, that's the new Barack Obama for 2012 for America, I guess.

MORGAN: You guys are certainly exuding a new confidence led by Governor Romney's bouncing off the walls at the moment. But obviously you know that these things can change very, very quickly.

PRIEBUS: Yes.

MORGAN: An interesting moment today that reminded people of two concerns, I would imagine, for you as a campaign. One, Mitt Romney's reputation as a flip-flopper and secondly the whole issue of socially conservative issues coming back to the fore when you least want them to.

Let's watch a clip today of Governor Romney talking about abortion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you intend to pursue any legislation specifically regarding abortion?

ROMNEY: I don't -- there's no legislation regarding -- with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that -- that would become part of my agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Now the Democrats seized on this. You can't really blame them because his position on abortion does change according to the strength of the wind at any given time. So what is the correct position of Governor Romney? He's always been -- actually he hasn't always been. When he was preparing to be governor of Massachusetts, he was very much in favor of pro-choice. Now he's pro-life but he was always, as a pro-lifer, saying we need to revert "Roe Wade" and prefer it part of the state. Now he's saying not even that.

What is his position? Because the problem he has, Reince Priebus, is that people say he says whatever it suits him for political expediency depending on whether he is appealing to the hard right of the party or as he --

PRIEBUS: OK.

MORGAN: As he now, as according to Bill Clinton, Mr. Moderate Mitt that we haven't seen for a few months.

PRIEBUS: First of all, I couldn't hear it real well. I'm assuming that's from the "Des Moines Register" but --

MORGAN: Yes.

PRIEBUS: You know, listen, what Mitt Romney is referring to as far as like, you know, is there piles of specific legislations sitting in Congress that's going to point to to the "Des Moines Register" editorial board? I mean, the fact is, he always has been and he is committed to being a pro-life president. He's committed to the fact that in his budget that we will not be funding Planned Parenthood to perform abortions. He's committed to the Mexico City legislation so that we're not sending foreign aid to countries so that it's being used to perform abortions.

He is a pro-life president. He's proud of it. And I just think you're taking -- not you particularly but many folks in the media are taking one particular sound bite referring to specific, you know, piles of legislation sitting in Congress, and it's just much to do about nothing.

I mean, listen, this is -- an election about the economy. This president hasn't performed. He's chasing every rabbit down the trail that he can to make this thing other than his own record and the miserable condition of this economy. And that's what we're going to talk about.

MORGAN: Right. But isn't it a problem that it comes down to trust. And we have to trust about the economy and therefore we have to trust him generally. And his position on abortion even in the last 12 months has flipped all over the place. And people are saying look, when he was --

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: It hasn't, though, Piers. It hasn't.

MORGAN: Well, it has, though. Because --

PRIEBUS: It has not, Piers. It has not.

MORGAN: Well, he has always been very clear --

PRIEBUS: What he is referring to --

MORGAN: Let me just --

PRIEBUS: You're wrong, Piers.

MORGAN: Let me put the allegation to you and you can respond. The allegation is that he was saying before that, I want to repeal "Roe versus Wade," I want the power to revert to states, and now he's saying he's got no plans for any legislation with regards to abortion. So which is it?

PRIEBUS: He's referring -- listen. This is -- he's referring to whether or not there's some piles of legislation in Congress that he is pursuing in his presidency. He's committed to and he's said it still yet today the fact that we will not be funding abortion with taxpayers' money, whether it'd be in his own budget or whether it'd be in foreign.

He's a pro-life president. He believes that life begins at conception. That people at the point of conception deserve the freedoms as preserved by our constitution. There's no inconsistency.

Listen, this is -- this is a rabbit trail. What -- you want to talk about trust. What about this president? He hasn't -- he hasn't provided a single budget that's passed through his Congress and my counterpart that you're going to talk to in a few minutes in three and a half years. He said he was going to cut the deficit in half, he hasn't. This economy is in shambles. If you want to talk about trust, if you want to talk about a guy that's in love with the sound of his voice, but can't follow through with a promise, that's President Obama.

That's trust. That's -- we want to talk about that.

MORGAN: Does it matter, do you think, if a politician changes his position on issues? Do you see it as an evolution or do you see it -- see it as a rather cynical exercise?

PRIEBUS: I think -- no. Listen, I hear what you're saying. I do think that it's possible that you can learn things about legislation and you can -- you can determine things as you go on through life and through your education and politics, and you can change your mind. Yes, I think that that's possible.

But what I don't think is possible is for a president to made grandiose promises that carpet the world four years ago knowing the miserable condition of where we were headed and saying that he would fix this economy in three years or less or he'd be a one-term proposition. Not even coming close to his promises, that is different.

And I would say that this president's record is a record of making promises and breaking promises. And that's really his problem. And that's why he can't stand in front of a debate moderator for 90 minutes and make the case to the American people. That's his problem. He didn't have a bad night, he's got a bad game. He's not capable of bringing a game if you don't have -- if you don't have a good game to bring.

MORGAN: OK. Reince Priebus, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

PRIEBUS: OK, Piers.

MORGAN: Here now with the other side is Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Apparently, your president doesn't just have a bad game, he has no game?

(LAUGHTER)

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: Well, you know, it's not really surprising that my counterpart is being critical of President Obama when he's got his own candidate who, as you said, has not -- this isn't Etch-a-Sketch. This isn't an evolution. This is simply Mitt Romney being utterly deceptive and trying to hide the ball.

I mean last Wednesday on the debate stage Mitt Romney decided to deceive the American people that he didn't have a $5 trillion tax cut plan that would increase taxes on the middle class to pay for more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Now he's told the "Des Moines Register" that he wouldn't make abortion a part of his agenda as president.

Yet this is the same Mitt Romney who has, through his six years of running for president, said he would be delighted, Piers, to sign a bill that would ban all abortions if Congress sent it to him. And his running mate has been the lead sponsor on countless pieces of legislation that would totally prevent women from making their own reproductive choices.

Mitt Romney has campaigned as a severely conservative candidate for president. Now, because he knows that those policies were headed towards making sure that he wouldn't -- have a chance of being elected, he's trying to hide who he really is and what he really stands for. And we're not going to let him get away with it.

MORGAN: When it comes to trust, though -- I mean we're watching the hearings today in relation to the Libya terrorist attack. And there's no doubt, a lot of anger building now about the issue of trust in the White House and the way they reacted and the statements that came out from various ambassadors and so on.

I mean, what do you make of that? It was very clumsily handled? Was it scandalously handled? Should heads roll?

SCHULTZ: Well, first of all, Piers, you know, President Obama knew Ambassador Chris Stevens. He knew him personally and was so appreciative of his work. He -- as president of the United States, that diplomatic corps works for him. And he nominates those ambassadors. So what we need to do when the United States had been attacked, when Americans have been killed while serving our country, we don't need to have Mitt Romney and the Republicans in Congress taking their first instincts, being to take cheap political shots.

MORGAN: Yes, but hang on, hang on.

SCHULTZ: We need to close ranks.

MORGAN: Debbie, let me stop you there. Because it's not about Mitt Romney and what he did which was clumsy in its own way and inappropriate.

SCHULTZ: Or my colleagues in Congress.

MORGAN: Yes. That was in appropriate. What is equally inappropriate, though, is the suggestion that Ambassador Rice and others made public statements which were deliberately misleading, in the sense of blaming this video --

SCHULTZ: No. Come -- Piers, how can you -- Piers.

MORGAN: -- when in fact it must have been known after four or five days that it was much more likely to have been a terrorist attack? That it had been planned?

SCHULTZ: Piers, I -- I can't even believe that you would suggest that Ambassador Rice would make deliberately misleading statements. At the beginning of this, it was very unclear what exactly happened and the main thing was to make sure rather than make snap judgments that we take a step back, make sure that a full investigation is done --

MORGAN: OK.

SCHULTZ: -- which is still ongoing.

MORGAN: Debbie, do you accept -- do you --

SCHULTZ: And --

MORGAN: Let me rephrase it. Let me rephrase it. Do you accept then --

SCHULTZ: I mean --

MORGAN: -- that Ambassador Rice was simply wrong?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think as more information came out, the initial information that would -- that they had was perceived to be that the attack was the result of protests and as the investigation has worn on, which is the responsible way to deal with it, we've come out and the administration has said, well, it's clear that now it was the result of a terrorist attack.

But what we don't need to do is we -- and was irresponsible is that my Republican colleagues in Congress have -- the first instinct they've had, Piers, is to jump on the cheap political opportunities that they're using this to be instead of closing ranks and saying, there's been an attack against Americans. Americans serving our country have been killed. We need to get to the bottom of this together and make sure that we take steps to prevent that from happening again.

MORGAN: But if you're -- see, if you're the families --

SCHULTZ: This is not a political opportunity --

MORGAN: If you're the families -- if you're the families of those who lost their lives, the Americans who lost their lives there --

SCHULTZ: Especially if I'm the families of those who lost their lives.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Yes, but I think you'd move well along from worrying about what Mitt Romney said and when he said it. You're much more concerned with, was there enough security, clearly there wasn't.

SCHULTZ: Absolutely.

MORGAN: And secondly, what -- why, with the world's intelligence, amass that you have at the White House and the Pentagon and so on, why could you make statements four, five days after (INAUDIBLE) with completely the wrong explanation for what has provoked this attack?

SCHULTZ: Piers, Piers, because these investigations are complicated and detailed and rather than say absolutely nothing, rather than -- you know, than not give information to the American people, Ambassador Rice went out and talked about what they believed to be happening at the time with the information on -- from the intelligence community that she had. And as time wore on, as responsibly the investigation revealed more details, then they came back and said no, this was the result of a terrorist attack.

But it is irresponsible and un-American, quite frankly, for my colleagues, my Republican colleagues in Congress to be jumping on this immediately as some political opportunity.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Well, I know -- but -- you keep going back to the same thing.

SCHULTZ: Please, Piers, let me finish my --

MORGAN: You keep -- because you keep --

SCHULTZ: Because you keep not letting me finish my sentence.

MORGAN: You are slugging the wrong dead horse. It's not about what Mitt Romney or Republicans do.

SCHULTZ: No, I'm not.

MORGAN: The really --

SCHULTZ: This is not -- I'm not saying --

MORGAN: The really important horse that should be flogged is the -- is the behavior and the statements of those who are in positions of responsibility and we assume knowledge. And it's pretty un-American.

SCHULTZ: The responsible thing to do --

MORGAN: Pretty un-American to be putting out completely false statements before you know the facts, isn't it?

SCHULTZ: Piers, it is not, it is not OK for you to be saying that the administration was putting out completely false statements. They put out information that they had at the time based on the intelligence they were given.

MORGAN: That turned out to be completely wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: And then as the days wore on and more -- well, that doesn't mean it was false. It mean --

MORGAN: What?

SCHULTZ: It doesn't mean that it wasn't deliberate.

MORGAN: Now wait a minute.

SCHULTZ: It means that the --

MORGAN: If you put out --

SCHULTZ: Piers, what --

MORGAN: If you put out a false statement then it's false, it's wrong --

SCHULTZ: But are you suggesting that there was --

MORGAN: It's both of those things.

SCHULTZ: Piers, what you're suggesting is that it was somehow deliberate. It was not deliberate. What they did was it important to get information out that they had at the time. And they did that, and then as they learned more information they corrected the original information that they put out. But there was no -- there was nothing sinister here. This was simply the president of the United States and the administration making sure that we did a careful investigation, gave the American people the information that they needed at the time, that we had based on our best intelligence. And then as more intelligence was gathered we gave the updated information.

There's nothing sinister about that. What's terribly unfortunate, though, is that you do -- there's no way around these investigations that Republicans in Congress and Mitt Romney have left to go after the administration, questioning whether or not there was any kind of deliberate attempts to mislead.

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Well, the answer to that -- the answer to that, Debbie, is --

SCHULTZ: Working together to prevent this from happening again.

MORGAN: The answer to that is to make sure the original statements that are made are accurate.

Anyway, for now, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you very much.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, a man who's not afraid to say what he thinks. Frank Bruni has been listening to all of this. I want to get his verdict on what he just heard and also his debate predictions next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I need you to go out and find neighbors who voted for Barack Obama and come join our team. I need you to go out and find people and get them to vote, get them to vote absentee. Get people voting. This is a critical election. Ohio could well be the place that elects the next president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Mitt Romney out with the begging bowls for votes. Will it work though? Is moderate Mitt on a roll? And joining me now is "New York Times'" op-ed columnist Frank Bruni.

Welcome, Frank.

FRANK BRUNI, NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: Thanks for having me.

MORGAN: Last time we saw each other a few weeks ago. Who could have thought that we'd be in this position?

BRUNI: No, I --

MORGAN: You would have done in your worst nightmare. Would you?

BRUNI: No, I think both of us secretly thought Barack Obama was cruising to victory. Is that what you thought?

MORGAN: Yes. Certainly. I think most people do.

BRUNI: Yes. Yes. It's been an interesting election.

MORGAN: It's completely transformed. I mean there's no doubt right now, if you were betting big money, it'd be very hard to know who you'd be putting the money on.

BRUNI: I think I'd still put the money on Obama. You know, one of the lessons of the way the polls have moved over the last week isn't necessarily that there is a Romney surge that will go on to Election Day. It's a lesson on the volatility of polls. And we could meet here again a week from now and be having a completely different discussion after the Tuesday night presidential debate.

MORGAN: I mean, I think that although the vice president debate is going to be fascinating, and I'm sure it'll be pretty exploding, with Joe Biden, I mean, really it's all about next week. This is all about can Barack Obama, as (INAUDIBLE) be less polite, more aggressive, take down Mitt Romney.

If Romney was to win that debate comfortably again --

BRUNI: Then Obama --

MORGAN: It could be game over.

BRUNI: Yes. Yes. And tomorrow night's debate does matter. You're right. People don't vote on the vice president. It's not going to make the kind of difference last week's debate made. But a certain kind of narrative is developing. And a certain momentum has formed. And if say Joe Biden had a miserable night and we have another couple of days of news stories about what's happened to the Obama administration.

MORGAN: Yes.

BRUNI: Have their lost their mojo, where is their energy.

MORGAN: Yes.

BRUNI: That could be very, very important even though one doesn't think that the vice presidential nominees --

MORGAN: A big pressure on Joe Biden. I mean I like the guy. And I like his style. And I think he could have a brilliant debate. And my prediction is, he's going to win. However, he's not really done any public interviews for, like, five months already.

BRUNI: He's been keeping a low profile.

MORGAN: So this is like the big coming out moment.

BRUNI: Right. Right. But he's got an advantage here because everyone is talking about what a skilled debater Ryan is. Everyone -- you know, there are polls coming out saying Ryan has a higher approval rating. There is so much pressure on Paul Ryan to beat him by a large amount that if both -- that if Joe Biden even comes close in whatever ways we can measure these things, he kind of wins. This is all an expectations game.

MORGAN: Joe Biden became a senator when Paul Ryan was 3 years old, I recall. Isn't that amazing?

Let's play a clip from Bill Clinton because this was from last night. I think he hit the nail on the head in relation to how the Democrats are perceiving the transformation of Mitt Romney. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a different reaction to that first debate than a lot of people did. I mean I saw -- I thought, wow, here is old moderate Mitt. Where have you been, boy? I missed you all these last two years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean it is fascinating. I mean when you watch this rally today again over the abortion comments that Mitt Romney made, if you chart just his history of statements about abortion, flopping all over the place.

BRUNI: And your head could spin like you're in the "Exorcist." Yes.

MORGAN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BRUNI: No. It's funny I was also watching that, I'm thinking, nobody was having more fun during this election than Bill Clinton, you know?

MORGAN: Yes.

BRUNI: The candidates aren't having so much fun. There's a lot on the line for them.

MORGAN: Does it help President Obama that Clinton is so brilliant? Or does he almost play against him? And people watch Clinton being funny, charismatic, being aggressive, being all things that we didn't see from the president the other night. Could it in a funny way hurt him?

BRUNI: It could hurt him and when I was watching that clip, in fact, I was thinking about animation in Clinton's -- you know, voice and face, and I was thinking about Barack Obama during the last debate where he just look like he didn't want to be there. He looked downcast.

Yes, I think that contrast is not a good one. However, we should never underestimate the fact that Clinton is a hugely popular ex- president who thrown his weight behind Barack Obama. For some voters that has a lot of meaning.

MORGAN: We had an interesting lively discussion with Debbie Wasserman Schultz there about the Libya situation. I mean extraordinary comments, I thought, that she made about this. It's nothing to do with the Republicans anymore. This is about, I think, how the White House, how the president, how the ambassadors dealt with this, and it simply seems not good enough to me that you can put out wholly erroneous statements five days after a terror attack.

BRUNI: Yes, and I have to take some issue on what she was saying. She was saying they weren't false or -- the point is they jumped to conclusions. They may not in its first days have been putting out information they knew would be false, but they decided to jump to a certain conclusion. They decided to jump to the conclusion that did not -- that did not kind of criticize or do anything negative to the war on terror and Obama's successes in that regard. And if you jump to a conclusion that you don't yet know is true I'm not sure how much better that is than lying.

MORGAN: And also, if it was a terror attack, it now seems very, very likely, then just tackle that head on.

BRUNI: Right.

MORGAN: And say we have been struck by terror again.

BRUNI: Right.

MORGAN: And we're going to come down hard on this.

BRUNI: Right.

MORGAN: I mean what is wrong with that position?

BRUNI: There is nothing wrong with that position. And there's nothing with the Republicans asking the questions they are on hearings right now. The problem is, there's all this grandstanding going on. So we have a very serious situation here. American lives were lost. It's very, very sad. We need to know what this means in terms of security going forward.

And we're not going to get good answers because on the hill, it's also polarized and partisan and everyone is just jockeying for political advantage.

MORGAN: Put your astrologer hat on. I want two quick predictions.

BRUNI: I'm an astrologer now.

MORGAN: Biden versus Ryan, who's going to win?

BRUNI: I think because the expectation is heavy that Ryan wins by a lot, I think Biden wins.

MORGAN: I agree. And Romney-Obama next week?

BRUNI: Again, because of expectations, I think we're going to be talking about how good Obama was because no one -- everyone is going to be comparing it to his last debate.

MORGAN: I've got a feeling Romney could nick it again, which would make things very interesting.

Frank Bruni, good to see you.

BRUNI: Good to see you. Thanks.

MORGAN: Is the new President Obama leaner and meaner? And is that what it'll take him to win? We'll debate tonight's "Battleground America", coming next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: President Obama is taking on Mitt Romney tonight, accusing him of flip-flopping on key issues, accusing his challenger as saying one thing but believing another.

Let's bring in my political all-stars. Charles Blow, columnist at the "New York Times," and Republican pollster Kristen Soltis.

Welcome to you both. Before we go anywhere I want to play this attack by the president on Mitt Romney in relation to his comment about abortion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is another example of Governor Romney hiding positions he's been campaigning on for a year and a half.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So is this a lie?

OBAMA: I mean Governor Romney has made very clear that if a bill comes to his desk, that overturns "Roe versus Wade" that he will be fully supportive of that. And he said, I will appoint justices that will overturn Roe versus Wade. And now, four weeks before an election, he is trying to cloud the question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Kristen Soltis, Let me start with you. I mean, he's got a point, the president, hasn't he? I mean, Mitt Romney has performed more flip-flops on abortion than almost any politician on any issue ever.

SOLTIS: I don't think this is a flip-flop. You can be -- you can be pro-life, but also say look, we have to turn the economy around first. Mitt Romney has been running on this five point plan to save the American economy and it's got things like we are going to fix trade and we're going to fix education.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Hang on. Yes, but the reason that he is the nominee is because he bas battled in the nominee race. I remember. I was covering it at the time, day after day. And one of the main stronger arguments he had was on his social conservatism. He suddenly hardened his positions. He was absolutely against gay marriage. He was against all abortions and so on.

Now suddenly we have, as President Clinton, Moderate Mitt has returned to the frame, the guy we remember from Massachusetts. Which one is he?

SOLTIS: It's not that his position changed, it's that he says that, you know, he -- there is a difference between if a bill came to my desk, I'd sign it and I'm going to go to Congress and fight for a bill. There is a difference there. And I think what he is trying to say is look, my priority is the economy. I'm pro life, but that is not a piece of legislation I've got in my mind to really push for early in my --

MORGAN: OK, Charles Blow, he certainly had it in his mind earlier this year, because that was when he was appealing to the Tea Party and the hard right of his party to make him the nominee. Now he's got the nomination and he's running for president. And there is a real chance of winning. Suddenly we are seeing a much more moderate Mitt Romney in all these areas, much less threatening, you might say, to a wider electorate.

BLOW: Right, and I think this is an intentional playing with language. And I think that the president is absolutely right when he says that he is intentionally trying to cloud this issue. And I think that that is actually a dangerous thing.

But I think the American people have to actually step up and say, I don't want this type of a leader. I don't want someone who says one thing one day and another thing another day. I even quibble with the idea of calling it a flip flop. He doesn't seem to have flip-flopped. He basically has the same position, he is just saying one thing one day and another thing another day. That's not flip flopping.

Flip-flopping is you actually do change your mind. There is no indication that Mitt Romney has, in fact, changed his mind about anything.

MORGAN: Well, when he was governor of Massachusetts, of course, he was pro-choice. Now he is pro-life.

BLOW: That was a flip flop. This latest issue of changing what one says is not the same as changing one's mind. And in fact, you had Reince Priebus on earlier tonight basically saying he would be a pro- life president, that he basically ticked off the entire list of the things that Mitt Romney had said in the primaries.

So there is no real indication that Mitt Romney, in this latest incarnation, has in fact changed his mind. He is basically just pitching a softer Mitt to the cameras for the middle -- kind of for the swing voters, and trying to pick up more women going into the home stretch.

MORGAN: Kristen Soltis, the difficulty for him, of course, is that this brings women's issues right to the fore again when he least wants them to be, because he was doing very, very well not talking about gay rights and abortion and so on. Suddenly he is right on the back foot again, having to deal with this.

SOLTIS: I don't think that this is very long lived though. The entire Democratic Convention was bringing this up and up and up and over again. And yet what did we come back to? We came right back to the economy, which is what this election has always been about. It is what it is going to be about on November 6th.

You know, I think that the attempts to try to put this onto other issues, it is not coming from the Romney campaign. It is sort of everywhere else that wants to talk about anything else but the economy. I think Romney is going to stay on that one topic, regardless of what everybody else wants him to talk about.

MORGAN: You don't really care about abortion as an issue?

SOLTIS: No, I think it's an important issue, but I think fixing the economy is the most important thing. I think that's what Mitt Romney's top priority is. So for me, as long as he has this plan that is going to fix the economy, I think that's the most important thing. And I think for women voters, who make up the majority of the electorate, when we say that the economy is the number one issue for voters, women make up the majority of voters. That is what they want. That is what they care about.

MORGAN: OK, let's take a break. When we come back, we're going to talk about the V.P. debate. Is Joe Biden going to swing to the rescue like Tarzan or is it all going to go horribly wrong?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about all the kids in this country who can finally afford college. Tell them about the millions of lives that will be changed because of health reform. Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq.

Tell them how together we took out Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Barack Obama's top campaigner, the First Lady, in Colorado today, making the case to keep her husband in office rather better than he has been doing recently. Back now with my political all-stars, Charles Blow and Kristen Soltis.

I mean, she was going for it there, Michelle Obama, Charles Blow. I get the feeling that when Barack Obama got home after that debate the other night, I would imagine a few doors got slammed, didn't they? What the hell were you doing, Barack?

BLOW: I'm not going to speculate on what happened in the White House.

MORGAN: I reckon it was the spare room for the president.

BLOW: I do believe that she is a very strong advocate for the president. I believe that he is now understanding the depths to which that debate performance hurt him and actually hurt people down ticket from him. I think that they are trying to recalibrate.

I think another thing they are trying to do is to stop what seems to be a little bit of some kind of Democratic panic, right, that some people on the left are looking at this and thinking, you know, you see a surge by Mitt Romney, they -- they saw that performance, there is not another debate until tomorrow, the president doesn't debate until next week. What is going to stop the polls from moving. So what --

MORGAN: I might agree with you. I mean people like Andrew Sullivan, who I think is a ridiculous character. And his access is ridiculous, never mind what he says there, writing these blogs, it is the end of the world as we know it. It's all over. We are all doomed. Come on. Grow a pair, the lot of you.

Kristen Soltis, how important is the vice president debate, do you think, to momentum here? If Joe Biden eats Paul Ryan for dinner, is that going to change things dramatically? Or is everyone really waiting for the next one?

SOLTIS: I don't think Paul Ryan is on the menu. I do expect that Vice President Biden --

(CROSS TALK)

SOLTIS: I expect that Vice President Biden will be very aggressive. I think he going to be an interesting test driver for the sorts of arguments and sort of strategy that you might see come out of Obama in the next week, in the next debates. If something that Biden tries goes well, I think you might see Obama do it in the next few debates. And if it goes badly, everyone can chalk it up to that's just Vice President Biden; he makes gaffes sometimes.

I think it's important for both candidates, but for very different reasons. So for Biden, again, he wants to do well so that he can stop this negative momentum that has been dragging down their ticket. For Ryan, it's really important because he has got to still introduce himself to the American people. He is really going to get asked a lot of questions about his ideas. He has always been this kind of bold guy that's put plans out there. I think he is he going to have to really stand up and defend those ideas. So I think the pressure's on both of them, but for very different reasons.

MORGAN: I think there is a lot more pressure on Paul Ryan, actually. I think that Joe Biden is a very experienced campaigners. He likes to get his gloves off and go for it. And I think that Paul Ryan could be in trouble here. He could be cornered by a raging bull, Charles Blow.

BLOW: I think that's true. I also think that this is a different moderator from the last debate. I think that this idea that Paul Ryan likes to say, it's a little too wonky for you, these numbers are a little too hard; don't worry your pretty little head, just trust me. That is not going to fly in every -- in every situation, and particularly not in a debate where you have an aggressive debater like Joe Biden and you have a different moderator who may not let you slide.

MORGAN: The moderator, it does matters.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: When I watched Jim Lehrer the other night, I was like, come on, you got to get in there. The time has changed. BLOW: Otherwise you can just let them draw like Uno Cards and just pick a topic.

MORGAN: Way too tame.

BLOW: You have to say, you know -- and I'm sure he's a great guy, has done his homework, obviously. If someone says something that obviously contradicts something that they have said before, you can say however you said this on so and so date; how does that square up with what you are saying tonight? That's not necessarily getting in and debating.

MORGAN: I would love to moderate one of those things. If anyone's watching and can make it happen, I'm available. I would absolutely love it. I don't think I'll go anywhere near it, but I would love to do it.

Charles Blow, Kristen Soltis, thank you both very much indeed, as always. Please come back soon.

Coming next, what voters care about most is the economy. Let's discuss that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: With the economy front and center, President Obama and Governor Romney are each making the case that they can create jobs and get people working again. As we know, it's easier said than done. Who has the real plan to keep America great?

With me now is Lynn Forester De Rothschild and Laura Tyson of the Henry Jackson Initiative for Inclusive Capitalism. Laura is also a member of President Obama's Council of Jobs and Competitors.

Welcome to you both, ladies. You apparently have the answer to all our economic and jobs woes in America. Lynn, just tell me exactly what this initiative is. What is it about?

LYNN FORESTER DE ROTHSCHILD, HENRY JACKSON INITIATIVE: It is bipartisan, transatlantic and private. So we are outside of the political realm, dealing with what we think is an important situation in America, where the American dream, defined as work hard, play by the rules and anything is possible, is kind of in a little bit of ill repute a bit.

Larry Summers -- not Larry Summers, Larry Katz (ph) at Harvard has a metaphor for it. He says America was like the apartment block 30 years ago, the beautiful apartment block. Everybody loved it, the envy of the world. Now in that apartment block, you have these great beautiful, rich people up above. You have the middle floors that are crammed. You have the lower floors that are water soaked. And worst of all, the elevator is broken.

MORGAN: How do we get the elevator working again?

LAURA TYSON, HENRY JACKSON INITIATIVE: Well, we focus on areas where we think the business community can really be involved. So this is really a private sector focus. What can the business community do to create what we're calling a more inclusive capitalism?

We start from the premise that the capitalist model is the best model for economic growth and poverty reduction overtime. History shows that. But we have to look for ways to deal with the increasing inequality, to make it more inclusive.

So an area we focus on, for example, is education. There actually is a lot going on within the business community, for example, developing new apprenticeship systems. In the U.S., working more closely with the community college cans to design skills programs and apprenticeships that get you directly from the classroom into a job.

We have been working on an initiative to increase the number of engineers in the United States. A lot of the unfilled positions in the United States right now are I.T., engineering, science, technology.

MORGAN: See, one of my big bugs -- maybe Lynn, you can come in on this -- take a company like Apple. Hugely successful, America's most successful company of all time, employing 90 percent of its workforce outside of America, and having no sense, I don't perceive, of any kind of moral capitalist duty, in the way that someone like Howard Schultz at Starbucks, for example, is now deliberately opening factories in America at a cost to the company, because he can do it cheaper abroad, because he believes he has a moral duty to do so. Should more business leaders be doing this?

DE ROTHSCHILD: Well, I think that, yes, we need to do that. But, of course, there are three million jobs out there that can't be filled because of what Laura is saying. That's really true of Apple. Because if we don't have enough technicians, we don't have enough engineers. So that's part of the problem. We need to start educating people for the jobs that are there and for the jobs that will be most competitive here.

Not forcing people to not go abroad, but to come to America where we have the best skilled people. That's what we're trying to do.

MORGAN: Yours is a bipartisan organization.

TYSON: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Which of the two leaders right now, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, would you say gives the best chance of fulfilling what you would like to see?

TYSON: I really think we have laid the question down to ourselves of we're asking what the business community needs to do. And we're not talking about tax policy. We're not talking about macro policy. We're not talking about regulatory policy. We say very clearly what can the business community do on inclusive capitalism?

I actually think -- I agree with your assertion that companies in the U.S. and U.K. -- because this is transatlantic, so we got U.K. companies in this as well. There are companies that are saying to themselves what can I do to create more jobs in my home country? And once you pose the question that way, that's what gets you started in things like apprenticeship programs.

MORGAN: I think it has to be posed that way. And I think that government has to start instructing companies and also making it more competitive for them to do that. They should go to companies like Apple and say, what will it take for to us do to bring your factories back here.

TYSON: So the good news in the United States right now is that if you look longer term, the U.S. has become a more competitive place to do business. The dollar, in real inflation adjusted terms, has come down. Our energy price environment, because we've had an amazing gas revolution, is a much more favorable environment.

We've had high productivity growth over a long period of time. So actually there will is some now reshoring going on. Companies like G.E. are actually out there bringing back, at the margin, jobs they had shifted abroad to come here. That's the first --

MORGAN: You mentioned G.E. What did you make of Jack Welch's Tweet that's got him into all sorts of trouble, challenging these unbelievable job numbers. "These Chicago guys will do anything."

DE ROTHSCHILD: That's Jack Welch. I think what Laura is saying is so, so important, that we have an opportunity in the business community, regardless of what happens in the election. And actually what we're talking about, Republicans and Democrats coming together to say it's not about politics. It's about we have a fiscal cliff coming. We have 25 percent unemployment among the young. This is not Republican or Democrat. This is not capitalist or Occupy Wall Street.

This is a problem for all of us. And what we do at the Henry Jackson Initiative is we showcase companies like -- like IBM, like Starbucks, like --

TYSON: AT&T, GE. There's a whole list of them that we've actually, in the report and on the website, we basically highlight real examples of what companies are doing. And part of the initiative is to get companies talking to one another about what they are doing, what works, what doesn't work. Then you can actually get groups of companies working together in clusters.

One of the things discussed in the report is a Minnesota group of civic leaders, business leaders, working in a regional development effort to improve competitiveness. So there is a lot that can be done once you pose the problem.

MORGAN: You posed it right now to millions of people watching this. I hope they get their act together. It's time America's big businesses, the successful ones, got together, do what you guys are doing, talk to each other, get stuff done. Get America back on track.

DE ROTHSCHILD: Absolutely.

TYSON: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Thank you both very much indeed for joining me.

(CROSS TALK)

MORGAN: Coming next, the Taliban targets a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who refuses to back down to their threats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: For tonight's Only in America, the power of one. Of all despicable acts committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has anything quite exceeded their attempts to murder a 14-year-old girl for speaking out about against their brutal activities. Malala Yousafzai lives in a the notorious Sawak (ph) Valley in Pakistan, where the Taliban threatened to behead girls who go to school, who study, or who watch television.

Showing astonishing courage, intelligence and eloquence, Malala defied the madmen by speaking out for the rights of children, and using the Internet to spread her message. Last year, she won Pakistan's national peace award. Listen to what she told CNN in 2011.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALALA YOUSAFZAI, 14-YEAR-OLD PAKISTANI CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER (through translator): I have rights. I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Yesterday, militants stopped the van that was carrying Malala and two friend home from school. They asked which one of the girls was Malala. When she was identified, the Taliban gunmen raised their guns and opened fire. All the girls were injured, but Malala suffered the greatest wounds, and will now be flown outside the country for treatment.

She is expected to survive, but nobody knows yet what brain damage she may have suffered. Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesman took pride in the assassination attempt, saying, quote, if she survives this time, she won't the next time.

Remember those words next time somebody questions what right the American military, together with allied forces, had in taking on those evil thugs? It wasn't just because they harbor terrorists like al Qaeda. It's because they think it's fine to murder 14-year-old girls for speaking their mind.

Tonight, I urge you all to think about Malala, a true heroine of our times. Let me end this show with some more words from this extraordinary young lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) YOUSAFZAI: I thought that my people need me and I shall raise my voice, because -- because if I didn't raise my voice now, so when will I raise my voice?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.