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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Piecing Together What Happened in Benghazi; Supreme Court Hears Affirmative Action Case; Presidential Race Polls Tighten; The Battle for the Buckeye State; Comics Take on Cheating

Aired October 10, 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: Welcome back, everybody. We're talking this morning about the truth about Benghazi. New details from the State Department as Congress launches a full-scaled hearing that's going to happen in just a few hours.

And the Supreme Court is taking up the racially charged topic of affirmative action today. We'll tell you why this time it could be struck down.

And gaining ground -- could Mitt Romney overtake President Obama's lead in the battle for? We'll talk to CNN chief national correspondent John King, straight ahead.

Packed show for you. We're talking to CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend, CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin, Jen Psaki with the Obama campaign, and comedians Joe DeRosa and Robert Kelly, who have written a book called "A Man's Guide to Infidelity: Cheat." Wonderful.

Wednesday, October 10th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning is Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Roland Martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV One. Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway is with us. And John Berman, as always, is with us.

Our STARTING POINT now: piecing together what exactly happened in Benghazi.

The State Department giving a detailed account of last month's attack on the U.S. consulate there. The House, I guess the mission there -- the U.S. mission there. The House Oversight Committee is going to weigh in on security failings during a hearing later today.

The State Department is now saying the attack was not a spontaneous offshoot of protests, saying that U.S. and Libyan security personnel in Benghazi were outmanned, that even a reasonable security presence would not have fended off the assault. That is their position.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Senior international correspondent Arwa Damon has some details for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the ashes, soot and debris, remnants of the life that was. It's all that remained in the unguarded U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi when CNN arrived on the scene three days after the September 11th attack. Eyewitnesses told us it was a complex assault. The compound's first line of defense easily breached.

(on camera): According to one of the Libyan guards who was stationed at the gate armed with only a radio, the assault happened simultaneously from three different directions. He says that he initially heard chanting growing increasingly louder, and then suddenly the gunfire, the rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy machine gunfire all began attacking the compound.

(voice-over): This is where Ambassador Chris Stevens slept, part of a small suite also meant to be a makeshift safe room. Here on the floor between the bed and the chair is where CNN found the ambassador's journal.

It is also the same room where the ambassador was located hours after the attack first began, separated by smoke from his security detail.

The U.S. initially said the assault was the result of a demonstration that turned violent.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted of course by the video.

DAMON: That was not the case. The State Department is now saying that there was nothing unusual prior to the attack.

At 8:30 p.m., everything was calm. And just over an hour later, armed men launched their assault.

Libyan officials say they warned the Americans on many occasions about the growing threat from extremists. The compound had already been attacked in June and there had been numerous attacks on other Western interests in Benghazi. And yet it remained a poorly fortified soft target.

Documents recently obtained by CNN indicate that the State Department's top security official in Libya asked for extra security but received no response from superiors.

Why? It's just one of many questions still to be answered.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Beirut. (END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: I want to bring in CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend into this conversation. She's a member of the CIA External Advisory Committee. And in August, she visited Libya with her employer, which is the holding company MacAndrews and Forbes.

Nice to have you with us.

Explain how a month has passed and we're still trying to figure out what exactly happened in Benghazi, the details of this trip, from the original compound to the annex compound, which involved a rush through traffic, being shot at with two flat tires, going the opposite way of the oncoming traffic to try to get everybody to safety and then eventually evacuation is incredibly detailed and horrific. And every single step of the way we've had from a lot of fronts this sort of confused narrative about what exactly happened.

Why is it taking so long?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the initial -- it would be understandable that the initial story might be confused, right? There's utter chaos. And it's -- we often hear it from the military, the fog of battle. That kind of explains the first 48 hours.

There is no good explanation for a month later. I mean, let's be honest. You know, you have this hearing that begins this morning. And just last night, sources in the State Department leaked in advance of the hearing --

O'BRIEN: Phone call, wasn't even a leak.

TOWNSEND: Right. But they wanted the story out before the hearing, right? It's an intentional sort of thing that, by the way, there was no protest.

Well, they didn't realize that last night. They realized last night the hearing was this morning and it was going to come out so they wanted to get the story straight.

Look, I often say, having lived these crises in the White House myself, do not assume malevolence or some conspiracy by -- where it can be explained by incompetence. I mean, you now have the situation, Soledad, where you've got the interagency pointing fingers at one another.

So in this briefing by the State Department last night, they say when asked -- well, but you said your ambassador at the U.N. said it was a protest. That wasn't us.

O'BRIEN: "Spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo". That's a quote of what Susan Rice, the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said on "Meet the Press" five days after the violence. TOWNSEND: Right. But what they were saying was those facts didn't come from us. They don't point specifically at the intelligence community, but that's where that's going. And, by the way, yesterday, the DNI says it wasn't an intelligence failure. And everybody shouldn't point to us. We don't get -- we often can't get tactical warning warnings.

I think what you're going to see at the hearing is this pointing back and forth between the agencies about, well, that's not what we've said, we didn't know this.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Take us inside. Isn't this often times (AUDIO GAP) because you're getting so many questions in relation to who did it, when are we going to find them, are we going to respond? And that seems to be the priority to give an answer, some kind of answer as opposed to, look, we simply don't know.

TOWNSEND: Well, it's a disease, Roland, in Washington. Everybody is allergic to saying I don't know when you don't know. That's a problem and they're living with the consequences of that. But it's foolish.

I mean, in some respects, in the first 72 hours, nobody expects you to have the answer. They expect that you're going to learn more details.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fran, part of the debate now is whether they could have had more security or not. And one of the officials on this call from the State Department said last night that the lethality and number of armed people is unprecedented. There have been no attacks like that anywhere in Libya.

Basically they're saying even if they increased the security as much as some folks wanted, it wouldn't have mattered because there were dozens of people rampaging through the compound.

What do we know about that? Could they certainly have protected the compound?

TOWNSEND: Well, they certainly could have done better. And they're going to have to -- you know, if you want it to be a credible voice, you're going to have to admit we could have done better.

Let's remember, you know, the last time we heard from the government, we couldn't anticipate what was beyond our anticipation was 9/11. It's not an acceptable answer.

You know, having been there recently, the security environment was deteriorating. I discussed it with the ambassador. It was not a secret. It was known that it was -- and that was certainly more so as you went east.

And so I think it is fair to say nothing of this scope or magnitude had been seen before, but that's really not a good enough answer to say why wasn't the security situation there better.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Eric Nordstrom, the security officer in Libya, had sent a couple of cables specifically requesting more security. He claims those actually went unanswered in March, in July, and in June, detailed in an email, exactly what he felt there was --

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: So you know, I think there's a certain naivety to underestimate al Qaeda. Perhaps you disagree.

TOWNSEND: No, I do agree. I do think they're going to have to cope with the -- I think we can expect the State Department witnesses to do their best to avoid this, but they're going to have to cope with specific requests from the field that were denied at headquarters, and I think the committee is going to look to see who specifically denied them.

ROMANS: This hearing is going to be fascinated today. Actually, it's going to be riveting to watch.

Thank you for talking with us, Fran. Always great to see you. Appreciate it.

John Berman has got other stories that are making news today -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad.

The man behind the anti-Muslim film that sparked the outrage in the Middle East, though apparently not in Benghazi, he is expected in a Los Angeles courtroom this morning. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula will find out whether he violated his provision on a bank fraud conviction. They will have to return to prison. Authorities say they're not investigating the actual film which went viral under YouTube.

But under his provision, his access to the Internet was supposed to be limited.

Mitt Romney's performance in the first presidential debate earned him a big bounce in the polls. In the Buckeye State, take a look at the new CNN/ORC poll of likely Ohio voters, the President's lead has all but evaporated there, shrinking to just four points, which is well within the margin of error. The battle for the Buckeye State's 18 electoral votes is now a statistical tie.

Before the debate, some polls show the President leading by 10 points.

When it comes to Israel, Mitt Romney says he has the Jewish state's back. Last night in "THE SITUATION ROOM," our Wolf Blitzer asked the Republican nominee what he would do if Israel launched a military strike on Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: There's no daylight between the United States and Israel. We have coincident interests, we share values, and we are both absolutely committed to preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And Romney says, if elected, the first trip he will take as president is to Israel.

And remember, tomorrow night, Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan face off for their only debate tomorrow night. You can watch it live at 7:00 Eastern on CNN and CNN.com. It should be extremely entertaining.

O'REILLY: It certainly will be. We've got a lot to keep an eye on for us.

All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, we're talking affirmative action now under the microscope at the Supreme Court. Justices are taking another look at racial preferences in college admission. We'll take you live to the Supreme Court, straight ahead for that.

And a Pittsburgh school teacher is viciously attack by a teenage student and is captured on surveillance tape. We're going to talk about that, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT.

In just a few hours, affirmative action will return to the Supreme Court docket. The justices will begin hearing arguments in a case that could have far-reaching consequences for college admissions. It involves a white student female who claims that affirmative action was the reason she was shut out of the University of Texas.

CNN's Joe Johns is live for us at the Supreme Court this morning.

So talk to me about the details of this case, Joe. Why is it so significant?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, this really is the kind of case that could change the way students get into college all over the country. It could change whether race is used as even one factor in the admissions process.

This involves a woman named Abigail Fisher who applied to the University of Texas. She says she was denied admission to the school because of her race. The university uses sort of a two-tiered structure to allow people into the school. First, they allow the top 10 percent of students from high schools all over the states. And those who don't fit that criteria actually end up in something called a holistic review process, and that's where race comes in as a factor.

The question is whether this narrowly tailored program is sufficient to withstand Supreme Court scrutiny once again. Of course, about nine years ago, when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was on the court, she wrote the majority opinion on this issue. So if you've heard it before, once again, the court is reconsidering some of these issues. There is some thought that the conservatives on the court could sort of change direction and say race shouldn't be considered a factor at all - Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's walk through, Joe, some of those Supreme Court justices who've talked in the past about affirmative action. Sonya Sotomayor had said that she was a product of affirmative action.

We know that Clarence Thomas has written about in his book about saying that he was African-American in his application to Yale Law School and feeling that he was treated differently when he got out of law school and felt like he couldn't get a job.

We know -- I think it was -- I think it's Justice Alito who actually campaigned very hard against this, an undergraduate at Princeton, against affirmative action. What are the expectations for what the court can vastly o? Justice Kagan is going to have to recuse herself from the conversation. So that could be a 4-4 split. What are the expectations about how is going to be divided up?

JOHNS: Well, there's a lot of thought, a lot of speculation. Of course, you know, you can never say what the Supreme Court is going to do in a case like this, but some expectation that Justice Kennedy might be the guy who has the say on this. And of course, he's expected to really look at this as a question of the narrow tailoring.

Is this program set up to fit the needs and are they using race as a last resort more or less? That would be the speculation about where this thing goes. Justice Kennedy has the say and everybody else sort of falls evenly divided along the sides you would expect, liberal versus conservative.

O'BRIEN: Joe Johns at the Supreme Court for us. Thank you, Joe. Appreciate it.

Let's get right to Jeff Toobin. He's CNN's senior legal analyst, the author of "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court." Nice to see you as always, Jeff.

So what is the difference between this case, the original case back in 2003, and then, now, nine years later, we know that Sandra Day O'Connor was one who said, you know, we probably won't have to talk about this for another 25 years. Clearly, she was wrong. You know, what are the main differences in these cases?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The main difference is that the Supreme Court is different. The facts of the case are not significantly different. Every court that has looked at this issue since 2003 has simply followed Justice O'Connor's instructions in the University of Michigan case and said, look, diversity can be a legitimate goal of college admissions.

Certainly, the only implication you can draw by the fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case is at least some justices think Justice O'Connor was wrong and then want to get rid of the consideration of race and affirmative action in university admissions. O'BRIEN: When you look at the actual case, the Abigail Noel Fisher versus the University of Texas at Austin, there's this interesting, I think, conflict between the 14th Amendment, right, which, I guess, essentially says you have to apply laws equally to everyone. And then, also, the First Amendment protection that says that, you know, universities can have their own education admission. Explain to me the conflict between those two parts of the constitution.

TOOBIN: Well, this case really focuses on the 14th amendment, and basically what Miss Fisher says is, look, by considering race, you are not treating individuals as individuals. You are using racial categories, and that's what the 14th amendment was designed to combat.

What the university says, of course, is the 14th amendment says no such thing that we believe the educational environment is richer, is made better. We, as a university -- and this is where the first amendment comes into play -- we think a university that has diversity of all sorts of backgrounds, income, race, gender, is a good thing for our students and we should be allowed to create a student body in that -- with that in mind.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin is the author of "The Oath." He's also, of course, CNN's senior legal analyst. Thanks for being with us, Jeff. Appreciate it.

TOOBIN: Okie doke.

O'BRIEN: We got to take a break.

Still ahead this morning, a high school yearbook is censoring out a teen mother's baby from her photo. The school says, hey, they're just following a tradition. Should they make an exception in this case? Today's "Tough Call." We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

U.S. stock futures pointing to a mixed open now. Lot of uncertainty still, though, in the markets because of the debt crisis in Europe and the fiscal cliff looming in Washington. I feel like a broken record on that one, folks.

Today, Toyota announcing its biggest recall ever almost 7.5 million vehicles due to a problem with its power windows that could pose a fire hazard. That includes about 2.5 million cars in the U.S. The Japanese automaker says driver's side window switch on some models could stick because of a problem during the assembly process.

They say the most common fix, applying a lubricant to the switch that could result in a fire.

O'BRIEN: So that would be a bad fix, wouldn't it?

ROMANS: That would be a bad fix.

O'BRIEN: All right. So our "Tough Call" --

LIZZA: -- 2004 Prius --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: In Ryan's personal issues of the day. You guys can talk off camera about that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Let me -- let me -- the "Tough Call" of the day is actually going to be a business story. It's jack Welch. Christine is going to do our "Tough Call."

ROMANS: Well, here's the thing. Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, still talking about that surprising jobs report from Friday. He wrote this this morning in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed: "The 7.8 percent unemployment rate figure released by the BLS last week is downright implausible and that's why I made a stink about it."

Now, here is what is that stink he made in a tweet after the jobs report came out. This is what he said. You recall this, guys. "Unbelievable jobs numbers. These Chicago guys will do anything. Can't debate, so change numbers."

Economists say, of course, a large number of Americans reported working part time where they started working from home, driving the jobless rate lower. There can also be a statistical anomalies month to month, but trend is the most important thing to look at. The jobless rate has been -- this is the trend. Jack Welch's ticking issue with the very last part of that chart, that's the trend showing it falling pretty consistently.

And interesting about this, Jeff Welch is a columnist. He contributes columns and commentary to "Fortune" and to "Reuters." He will no longer be doing that. He has sent a letter, an e-mail to both of them, sent via his iPad. He says on the e-mail that he gets better traction at "The Wall Street Journal," so he won't be sharing any more of his content on "Fortune" and "Reuters".

O'BRIEN: And both of them wrote articles that were critical of what he had said.

MARTIN: This isn't a tough call. This is a wimp call. Jack is upset because he's take -- it is a wimp call. He's taking heat because he's so used to everybody kissing his butt as America's favorite CEO. Had the unemployment rate gone up to 8.4, he wouldn't have said a word.

So you criticize the BLS, it going down. Criticize it when it goes up. So Jack, guess what, take the heat. It's OK. Stop being a wimp about it.

CONWAY: Yes, but, look, what I don't like is all the ageism that flows when somebody who's 76 years old makes a comment that people disagree with. So we've heard the word dementia. We just were handed an article.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: People criticize young people all the time for being young and dumb.

CONWAY: He had to go on TV the other day and defend against the fact that he is still cognizant.

O'BRIEN: Right. But isn't that because people thought that his original tweet where he said the Chicago guys are manipulating the numbers, they just thought that was "crazy" not necessarily that he's an older guy --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: He compounded it in "The Wall Street Journal" article where he says, "Imagine a country where the ruling authorities -" He compared what happened to him when he was criticized for spinning a conspiracy theory to communist China and Soviet Russia.

Now, imagine, if you lived in communist China or Soviet Russia, looking at Jack Welch, this multimillionaire who tweeted some conspiracy theory so people pushed back and criticized him, which I think is what free peach is all about and then he went on to describe that as similar to being in Soviet Russia?

MARTIN: Jack, the fact that you can actually say it means you're in America. It's called the First Amendment.

O'BRIEN: Yes, look, here's what I'd like to say, before you tweet something, just take a moment. Just, you know --

ROMANS: He wishes he put a question mark after the tweet would have been all right?

LIZZA: Soledad, it's not the tweets. It's he editorial that probably went through editors, that he sat down and thought about and wrote --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: The tweet is what was started it all. He said he should have done this, you know, put the tweet in a different context, which he did not.

CONWAY: Employment numbers still stink regardless of his tweeting about it.

ROMANS: And, you know, but the thing is, we were discussing that. He was discussing twisting the numbers, which is a different --

O'BRIEN: -- conspiracy element. We've got to take a break.

LIZZA: -- the BLS ruling authorities?

(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, new details about that deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the White House version. Were they wrong? We're going to talk about that with the traveling press secretary for the Obama campaign.

And a 15-year-old student is charged with assault for an attack on a teacher. It was all caught on tape. We'll show you what happened straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Remember we told you that those protests over an anti-Muslim movie led to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, in Benghazi. That was the initial assessment of the assault, which killed Ambassador Christopher Steven and three others Americans. We were told then that was apparently wrong. According to two State Department official from a briefing last night there were no protests before the attack. In fact, things were quiet. As we're learning, the House Oversight Committee is getting ready for its hearing on the attack and will happen in less than four hours. It will obviously have an impact on the campaign trail.

Let's get right to Jen Psaki. She's the traveling press secretary for the Obama campaign.

Jen, nice to be with you.

JEN PSAKI, PRESS SECRETARY, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Hi Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. So let me talk to you first about what - Congressman Chaffetz was on our show earlier this morning and this hearing's going to get underway in a few hours. And he had said, and I asked him about it as well, about - he was saying that there was collusion, he believed, between what the State Department was doing and the White House in terms of what happened in Benghazi and getting those stories straight and manipulating, if you will, the story. I'm paraphrasing him.

Here's what he said in an interview on FOX News yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: It seems to be a coordinated effort between the White House and the State Department, from Secretary Clinton to President Obama's White House. There was a very conscious decision made. I believe, my person opinion, is that they wanted the appearance of, quote, unquote, "normalization" there in Libya. And building up of an infrastructure, putting up barbed wire on our facility, would lead to the wrong impressions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Concerned, as he goes into this hearing and he's talking about sort of this collusion for the sake of looks, the impact it's going to have on this campaign? PSAKI: Well, look, I think that's quite a heady accusation from Congressman Chaffetz and I know Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been out there making outrageous political accusations as well. The fact is, to the President and to the administration, this is not a political issue. No one wants to get to the bottom of this more than the President. He knew Chris Stevens. He knew the great work he was doing in Libya. He knows how hard our diplomats have been working. And that's why we've been fully cooperating with not only a State Department investigation but fully cooperating with Congress.

The fact is, we're providing information - not even me, I don't even work in the administration anymore - but the administration is providing information they had access to at the time. And the intelligence community has come out and said that this was an organized act of terrorism. But for us, it's not political. For the President, it's not political. And it's unfortunate it's being brought to that.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about polls, because I know that's an area that you cover a lot. You said yesterday you wouldn't pick apart any individual poll, but now CNN has the poll of polls, if you will, and it shows that Mitt Romney is leading by a point. That poll is right there. How worried are you about polls like this? And I got a bunch more to show you too.

PSAKI: Well, look, I think we don't get too high when things are high and down when things are down. We've always thought this was going to be a very, very close race, and that's why we're running like we're five points down in every single state. We have blinders on. We're implementing our plan. And ultimately we think the American people are going to look at the choice and they're going to vote for President Obama and that's why we're out there every day making the case.

But we don't get too worried with all the ups and downs of the polls. We know there will be many, many more between now and Election Day.

O'BRIEN: But there's got to be a strategy change, right? Let me run through a couple other polls.

You look at the state of Ohio. First Ohio poll of late. A big jump for Mitt Romney, he's now 47 percent and it's within the margin of error, but President Obama is only leading there by 4 points and Mitt Romney's made a big gain there.

If you look at Michigan, according to an EPIC poll, Mitt Romney's gained 8 points. You can see on the right side of the screen is back in September; on the left side of the screen is where they are right now. While the President dropped 1 point, Mitt Romney, who's made a big gain, and in New Hampshire has gained 4 points, according to a WMUR poll. We have that up on the screen right now.

So what's the strategy? Going into the vice presidential debate, what's the plan for kind of turning this around?

PSAKI: Well, look, we don't think anything needs to be turned around. We knew this race was going to be close. That's exactly what we're looking at. Our strategy is to get out there, energize and engage our voters; that's what we've been doing the last couple of days. We think that when people look at the choice, it's going to be pretty clear to them that President Obama is a better choice for the middle class. We feel very confident in our ground game and we're implementing that across the country.

The President was in Ohio yesterday, which was the voter registration deadline, encouraging people to go vote, go early vote, go register. We're going to be out in Florida tomorrow. And that's what we're focused on. We're not getting whipped up and down with the ups and downs of these polls because we know there'll be many ups and downs in the next 27 days.

CONWAY: You don't have many more days left and with all due respect the President is not at 50 percent in any of these polls. He got 53 percent as the challenger. And you know, as a non-incumbent in 2008, you know because you were a great pollster before you went to the White House and the campaign, what exactly do you do knowing that most undecided voters usually break for the challenger? You may think that he is a better, quote, "choice", but he certainly is not a better debater. So what do you do in the next 27 days to make him a better debater in the two remaining debates and to get him to 50 percent and, thirdly, to stop -

O'BRIEN: OK, no three point questions.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: -- given that challengers usually benefit from undecideds?

PSAKI: Look, I would dispute a couple of points. One, I've never been a pollster. But two, look, I think the American people are looking at what the candidates are representing. We know there is a limited amount of time left in this race. We know that Mitt Romney had a better debate last week. But we're not getting - we're not focused on that. We're focused on the next debate, and the President's excited about having a back and forth with not only Mitt Romney but with the people in the audience at that town hall meeting.

So I know that people want us to say that we're out, we're depressed or we're under a table, but we feel much better about our ground game, we feel better about the choice we're offering the American people than Mitt Romney. And, you know, we'll let him run his own race and we're going to run our own race.

O'BRIEN: Jen Psaki joining us this morning. Appreciate your time, Jen.

PSAKI: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Let's get right to John Berman with other stories making news today.

BERMAN: Thank you, Soledad. Police in Westminster, Colorado, have released home video of Jessica Ridgeway in hopes that someone who has seen the 11-year-old will come forward. The fifth-grader disappeared last Friday while walking to school and two days later policy found Jessica's backpack about six miles from her house. They got off to a late start on their search because Jessica's mother works nights and police say she slept through a call from officials after Jessica was absent from class.

We're not learning the names of some 1,900 men who were expelled from the Boy Scouts of America for alleged sexual abuse. The names were released by a lawyer who represents more than 100 alleged victims. According to his files, many have never been reported to police or never faced criminal charges.

Police in Pittsburgh have arrested a 15-year-old boy for a vicious, apparently unprovoked attack on a teacher that was captured on a security camera. The tape shows the 50-year-old teacher walking by a group of people when he suddenly is punched and knocked unconscious. The suspect has now been charged with assault.

And the father of a bullying victim in Texas is trying to protect his 14-year-old son by shaming his school. Randy Duke is home from his job training police officers in Afghanistan. He's been spending several hours a day outside his son Max's middle school wearing a sign that says, "Bullying victims are punished here." That's because Max finally fought back and wound up getting a suspension for doing it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY DUKE, FATHER OF BULLIED TEEN: And he feels nobody has been listening to him. When he finally has to take matters into his own hands, he gets punished. And he's at the point where, "You know, Dad, I couldn't walk away, because he just followed me and beats up on me all the time."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: School district officials are not commenting on Max's case.

Some students in Minnesota are upset. They say pictures in their public school's yearbook is being censored. The school is not allowing the photo of a teen and her baby. It also isn't allowing a remembrance page for a student who killed himself. The school says it is standing by years of tradition, showing only one student in a senior photo. School officials also saying experts advise them not to start a remembrance page. So much for kids doing their own yearbook.

O'BRIEN: I have to tell you, if my kid was being bullied and couldn't get any help on it, I would tell them to go smack the other kid. I would. Honestly, I spent a lot of time thinking about that. I'm sure that's exactly the wrong thing to do. But as a parent, if your kid is being picked on and they try to deal with it and some kid comes up -- at some point you have to defend yourself and tell a bully you will defend yourself.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: It seems unfair that that kid is getting punished.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm with the daddy on that.

CONWAY: Be with the daddy, not the baddie.

O'BRIEN: Look at you, rapping on our show. I like that.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Seriously, John Berman, the funk master, you pushed it a little too far. I got you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, so goes Ohio, so goes the White House, some people say. Right now President Obama is holding a lead in the crucial swing state, but they're both fighting for a critical vote.

And then we're going to talk about cheating. There's a new book out called, "Cheat: A Man's Guide to Infidelity," as if men need a guide to infidelity.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'll change that, like anybody needs a guide to infidelity.

MARTIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk to the comedians about their new book straight ahead. I stand corrected.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If Mitt Romney would like to win the White House, he will almost have to certainly win Ohio. And he is gaining ground there. A new CNN/ORC poll of Ohio likely voters shows that Mitt Romney is within four points of the President. That is considered to be a statistical dead heat.

That brings us right to CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King. He is live in Columbus, Ohio, this morning. Mitt Romney's real challenge in Ohio is women, isn't it?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, Soledad. If you look at our new poll, Mitt Romney is up in the suburbs. He's up among independents. He's put Ohio back into play from where it was before the first debate. But when you look closely the President gets huge support among after African-Americans, including African-American women.

The big warning sign here for Mitt Romney is white women.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING (voice-over): The light's still on past midnight, another 20- hour day for Jessica Lundgren.

JESSICA LUNDGREN, UNDECIDED VOTER: I'm a single mom. I have five year old little girl who is fantastic. I work full time and go to school full time. So my day usually starts around 4:45 in the morning and ends close to 1:00 a.m. You do what you have to do in this economy.

KING: Her vote, she says, is for Jillian's future. She was leaning Mitt Romney until his own words pushed her back to undecided.

LUNDGREN: Speaking about, you know, the 47 percent and I can't really worry about them. You know, how can you put your faith and trust in a candidate that doesn't care about everybody?

KING: To win Ohio and other key battlegrounds, Romney must overcome the doubts of working moms like Jessica. New CNN polling shows that post debate Romney Ohio bounced but still a narrow Obama lead. White women are the battleground within the battleground.

Our new CNN poll shows 52 percent support the President now, that's up from the 47 percent he received here in 2008.

MARIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: They're all worried about putting food on the table, raising kids who are happy and healthy who are going to have a good future, are going to graduate into an economy where they could find a job.

KING: Democratic pollster Margie Omero has been studying so-called "Wal-Mart Moms" for several years.

OMERO: We've seen them prove to be swing voters over the years. In 2008 they voted for Obama. In early 2010, they were a little bit more divided. By November 2010, they were decidedly Republican.

SARAH MINTO, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: I was wondering if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Josh Mandel can count on your vote in this election.

KING: Like Sarah Minto, a 2008 Obama voter who is now a Romney Ohio volunteer.

MINTO: He let me down. I was very, very hopeful that he was going to be the guy to turn everything around in America and make everything better and he just -- his words were empty.

KING: But Romney might have only himself to blame if more white middle class moms side with Obama this cycle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, let's pray.

KING: Sharon Wiseman is a conservative Christian, a 2008 John McCain voter who recently went from undecided to lean Obama offended, she says, by Romney's 47 percent remark.

SHARON WISEMAN, LEANS OBAMA: I think I heard it on an Obama ad and then I Googled it. And I feel like he's out of touch with what everybody's going through. I mean, Ohio is one of the hardest places hit.

KING: It hit home because the Wiseman family got government help while husband, Ray, was unemployed for a bit.

WISEMAN: My reaction to what he said is, that's me. He's talking about me.

KING: Three teenagers and a husband who just found work two hours away shaped Sharon's politics. And while she promises to listen, the hour is getting late. Governor Romney, running out of time to prove he understands her struggles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And Soledad, it's quite interesting. Governor Romney in his interview with Wolf Blitzer, yesterday clearly trying to shrug off the 47 percent, saying it's not what he meant to say. He hopes it fades as the debates continue and the election gets closer. But a lot of Republicans here aren't so sure. Among the things, they're asking the Romney campaign to do is perhaps to cut an Ann Romney television ad where she makes a direct appeal to those women who didn't like the 47 percent and have been turned off by the governor of late.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it was so fascinating to hear that woman in your piece talking about how she heard it in an ad first, the 47 percent comment and then went back to Google it. So where are you seeing a change in strategy in the campaign about how to deal with this and how to move forward in the few days that are remaining -- or many you know several days that are remaining now?

KING: It's the toughest thing to deal with, because it's not an attack ad where it's some voice of God, a narrator or some pictures. It's Romney's own voice. It's the greatest weapon you can give your opponent, your own words in your own voice saying your something that most people find horribly offensive.

So the governor first he went on FOX News and said, you know, I didn't mean to say that, it was horrible. Yesterday with Wolf he was trying to say it was just -- I just misspoke and my tongue got out ahead of me and I want to represent 100 percent of Americans.

But look, no doubt about it, they'll try to move on from this. And Governor Romney is probably going to have to almost -- he doesn't -- he doesn't say it's an apology but say I didn't mean it a few more times. But the Obama's campaign is not going to let up. Its friends in the Super PAC community are not going to let up.

And they are being very smart. They know the woman's vote, the suburban woman's vote, is key in many of these battleground states. Turn on Oprah, turn on Katie, turn on Anderson, those daytime programming that women tend to watch more than men, that's where they're running these ads and it's hurting. There's no doubt about it. It's one of those breakthrough moments. In a crowded politics, a lot of things don't break through, 47 percent did. O'BRIEN: And that's why we've seen the candidates doing the same -- obviously all those women's programming as well.

All right, John King for us. Thanks John. Always nice to see you. I appreciate it.

Vice President Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan are going to get their turn to tackle the issues before the country at the vice presidential debate which takes place tomorrow. You can come watch our coverage which starts live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN and also on CNN.com.

Straight ahead this morning on STARTING POINT -- is cheating ever OK? Do we even need to ask that kind of question? Please. A new book though, which someone has stolen from me, says yes.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm far away from Soledad. That's all Ryan and John, baby. I'm sitting over here.

O'BRIEN: No, I actually handed it off so we could do some stuff on it. It's a guide --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Setting us up.

O'BRIEN: -- to how to cheat. A handbook. As if someone needs a handbook. We're going to talk to the authors who also, surprise, surprise, also happen to be comedians.

MARTIN: The fools who got busted need a handbook.

O'BRIEN: Yes, how about that. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: OK. New book to talk about. It's called "Cheat: A Man's Guide to Infidelity". It's written by three comedians, Bill Byrd, Joe DeRosa, Robert Kelly. Bill is not here but Joe DeRosa and Robert Kelly join us to talk about this book.

Why would you possibly need a book to spell out how to cheat? You know, I look back at my old boyfriends from college and I think they don't need a book.

JOE DEROSA, CO-AUTHOR, "CHEAT: A MAN'S GUIDE TO INFIDELITY": Well, you know, we're not -- first of all we're not telling you go out and do this. We're not encouraging you.

O'BRIEN: Looks like you are.

ROBERT KELLY, CO-AUTHOR, "CHEAT: A MAN'S GUIDE TO INFIDELITY": No, we're not.

DEROSA: We're just telling you how to do it.

KELLY: We're not -- yes, we're not saying guys don't cheat. But if you're going to, don't ruin your whole life. DEROSA: Yes.

KELLY: Be smart about it. And cheating isn't just a guy with a girl. Some women consider dirty movies cheating. If you're not thinking about me when you're doing anything, that's cheating.

MARTIN: It's really what you say that guys are so stupid that they always get busted. You're trying to help them not get busted.

KELLY: Look, Tiger Woods messed up big time. We want people to be JFK, not Tiger Woods.

MARTIN: Here's where I call off your (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

DEROSA: I am single. Just because you're single doesn't mean you're not cheating, which I have learned.

This book was not written by hoping --

CONWAY: And that's why you're single.

DEROSA: Very prepared to answer to this book for the rest of my life. That's going to be our --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And Robert are you single? I mean --

KELLY: No.

O'BRIEN: You write in this book -- wait, wait -- you write in this book that you cheated on every single girl you were with since seventh grade.

KELLY: Absolutely.

MARTIN: He owns it.

KELLY: Think of this. Think of this. I'm being honest.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate your honesty.

KELLY: People -- think of us as bank robbers that rob banks, went to jail and then wrote a book on how to rob a bank. Do you understand?

I've been married five years. I don't cheat on my wife. But when she was my girlfriend, when we first met, absolutely. She knew what a piece of garbage I was. But we evolved and now --

CONWAY: Now you're a published author for a book called "Cheat".

KELLY: She helped me write some of it. Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK) MARTIN: -- wedding ring, so what's up.

KELLY: What's that? I can't wear the wedding ring because my finger was going to fall off because I gained so much weight. Swear to God.

MARTIN: That was in the book, right?

O'BRIEN: On page 23 of this book, you write this, when you get these basic human urges to cheat, everything you ever learned about love prods you to think it's contradictory to being a decent person.

DEROSA: I didn't write that. He wrote that.

O'BRIEN: OK. And then you go on saying "That's bull -- and it's the media's fault."

Isn't cheating contradictory to being a decent person.

DEROSA: Well, it's not. It's not contradictory to being a decent person. You have to look at this from a very biological standpoint.

O'BRIEN: Oh.

DEROSA: There's something in you -- hold on -- there's something in you that makes you want to do this. Now whether you go out and do it or not is a different story. But our point is, is that these guys are going out and doing this regardless, and they're being very sloppy when they do it and they're ruining lives.

CONWAY: Whether you do it or not is a moral question.

DEROSA: Yes.

KELLY: Well, it's --

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: And some people believe adultery is wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

DEROSA: I think -- no, no. But I mean look, there are plenty of people in marriages where the wife says sex with another woman is not cheating because it's just physical. There are plenty of people in marriages that say if you look at pornography that's cheating because, as Bob said, you're not thinking about me. There are all these different rules. It depends on your relationship. It depends in the situation you're in.

O'BRIEN: It's all spelled out here in the book "Cheat: A Man's Guide to Infidelity". I'm going to say, you're right. It is not a book about moral philosophy in this --

DEROSA: And it's funny.

KELLY: And it's hilarious. If you're a woman and you read this book and you don't laugh -- I don't want to know.

O'BRIEN: Joe DeRosa and Robert Kelly --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: All cheating stories are hilarious.

O'BRIEN: A short break. We're back in just a moment. You can carry on the conversation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We're out of time. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon begins right now. Hey Don, good morning.