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Candidates Prepare for Vice Presidential Debate; Polls Tighten in Presidential Race; U.S. Embassy Official Killed In Yemen; Sandusky's Letter To The Judge; Supreme Court Hears Affirmative Action Case; Fungal Meningitis Death Toll Now 12; Stroke Study; Nobel Prize In Literature; Romney Gains In Battleground States; Vice Presidential Battle Is On; Romney Muddles His Abortion Stance; Anger Over Shooting Of Young Activist; Supersonic Skydive; Saving Tangled Sea Lions; Brees Breaks Unitas' Record

Aired October 11, 2012 - 07:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Our "starting point" this morning: showdowns between the No. 2s. Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan face off tonight in their only debate. Will we see fireworks or will it flop?

A tragic discovery. A body found in the search for a missing 10-year- old girl from Colorado. Is it Jessica Ridgeway?

Pulled from the rubble. A construction worker freed overnight 13 hours after a parking garage collapsed on him.

And a throw into history. New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees breaks a 52-year-old record. You can hear his reaction and his new passion project all ahead this morning.

It's Thursday, October 11, and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN (on camera): Morning, welcome everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. A packed show this morning, including Newark mayor Cory Booker will be joining us. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is our guest.

New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees will be celebrating with us this morning. And Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod joining us.

Our starting point this morning, of course, the high-stakes showdown in Kentucky, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden facing off. It will happen in a little less than 14 hours from now. It will be the one and only vice presidential debate. You're looking at live pictures of the hall in Danville, Kentucky. That's where it's going to happen.

Some new polls out to talk about. They show that the Romney/Ryan team is gaining ground where they need it the most, in the swing states. Romney is closing the gap in Ohio and pulling ahead by a point in Virginia. Mitt Romney is in front in another swing state, Colorado. Let's get right to CNN's Dana Bash. She's already in Kentucky with that. Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, Paul Ryan knows full well the pressure is on him to keep the momentum you just illustrated going. He's actually been preparing, effectively, I'm told, since the day he was picked by Mitt Romney, reading, studying as much as he can. He's been doing mock debates with his sparring partner, who is a former solicitor general, the renowned litigator, Ted Olsen, with hotels from Oregon to Florida.

I spoke to him exclusively, Soledad, about his prep and it is pretty clear that this kind of preparation is nothing new for him.


BASH: I'm telling you what a source I spoke with about how you prepare for hunting. You wash your clothes in unscented detergent, shower in unscented soap, spray unscented stuff on your boots. I know this is fairly typical, but you take it to a whole another level.

PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're into hunting and bow hunting, that's the way to do it. I do take it seriously, because I'm much more successful if I do things properly and prepare the right way.

BASH: How does that speak to how meticulous you are and doing anything in your life?

RYAN: I've always believed, if you're going to do something, do it well. You're talking about the debate, I suppose. Joe Biden has been doing this for a long time. He ran for president twice, he's a sitting vice president. He's been on this stage many times before. So that's new for me. I know how he'll come and attack us. The problem he has is, he has Barack Obama's record he has to run on.

BASH: Are you intimidated at all, based on the background that you just described?

RYAN: No, I'm not intimidated. I'm actually excited about it.


BASH: Now, Joe Biden may have the experience that Ryan just laid out, but he is not taking anything for granted. We are told that he has been in debate camp for four days back in his home state of Delaware, also doing 90-minute mock debate sessions. And we're told according to our Jessica Yellin, she's been doing some reporting on the fact that he's been trying to focus on making sure that the policies that he's going to discuss are said in plain English, like Bill Clinton style. And certainly the last debate, Soledad, was substantive, but it did get a little wonky, so plain English might be a nice change tonight.

O'BRIEN: There are lots of things that I think everybody can improve from the last debate. Dana bash for us, appreciate it. In just a few minutes, we'll be talking more about the debate and new poll numbers with Newark Mayor Cory Booker. He'll be our guest.

First, though, I want to get to John. He's got a look at our top stories. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad. A lot of news today. A body found in the search for a missing 10-year-old girl in Colorado. Police in Westminster will hold a news conference this morning after finding a body at a park in Arvada not far from where Jessica Ridgeway was last seen. But for now, investigators say they cannot make a connection to the Ridgeway case.

A man who was trapped under a huge slap of concrete for 13 hours was pulled from the rubble alive early this morning at the site of a parking garage collapse in Doral, Florida. That collapse left three workers dead. The five-story garage was under construction when the structure gave way late yesterday morning, with dozens of workers trapped inside.

A contentious four-hour hearing on the terror attack that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, it quickly turned political. House Republicans questioned the administration's motives and criticized the White House for security lapses at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Democrats fired back, accusing house Republicans of cutting funds for security and turning a tragedy into a sideshow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I am fascinated to know and to understand, from the president of the United States, from the secretary of state, and from the ambassador to the United Nations, how they can justify that this video caused this attack. It was a terrorist attack. Let's be honest about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I certainly hope that today's hearing is not going to be perceived as an effort to exploit a tragedy for political purposes 27 days out from an election.


BERMAN: Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has agreed to stop talking about the day he met former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty. Doherty was killed last month in the Benghazi attack. His grieving mother accused Romney of politicizing her son's death.

The evidence is mounting this morning against cycling champ lance Armstrong. A stunning new report by the U.S. anti-doping agency includes Armstrong's former teammates talking about how they and the seven-time tour de France winner beat their testing by using saline injections and backdated precipitations. They said Armstrong and his team participated in "the most sophisticated and professionalized and successful doping program that the sport has ever seen." Armstrong's attorney says it's nothing but a witch hunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not suggesting that they are all lying, but I am suggesting that each witness needs to have cross-examination to test the accuracy of their recollection.


BERMAN: But he's not saying they're lying. The report says Armstrong and his team also benefited from inside information, tipping them off to upcoming drug tests.

And is there anything better than playoff baseball? Two unbelievable finishes last night. First in the American league division series, the Yankees' Raul Ibanez. This was great. Ibanez, a walk-off homer in the 12th into beat the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees lead this series now two games to one. Meanwhile, the Oakland a's, not to be outdone, down two runs and facing elimination, a walk-off single by Coco Crisp, the best name on planet earth, delivering the victory, sending their series with Detroit into a fifth and deciding game tonight. They were in the ninth inning, down by two runs, they still came back and one. What a comeback going into game five.

O'BRIEN: Is this painful for you since you're a red sox fan? Does it hurt your heart?

BERMAN: Whenever the Yankees lose, I think an angel gets its wings. But the baseball last night was so good and so exciting, I don't care.

O'BRIEN: You're a bad, bad man, John Berman.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Leave the dark side of the force, Luke.

O'BRIEN: We try, we try, we try. Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker is with us. He's a Obama campaign surrogate. We've got lots to talk about, first the debate. If you look at the polling, troubling for you guys. Swing at a time polls show Ohio, Virginia, tightening up very much. If you take a look at Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, that's from a Quinnipiac poll, we were talking about this a little bit earlier, also tight. You have to be, I know politicians always say, polls, never follow the polls, but you do follow the polls and they're very tight, and that has to be worrisome, especially clearly since they're a bounce off the debate.

BOOKER: I follow polls. I pay pollsters when I'm running for elections. So they are important. But for me, what gets me excited, I was down in Florida and campaigning down there. I saw a street operation or a ground game like I've never seen before, an enthusiasm. So I think what you're going to see is a lot of the polls polling likely voters. What you're going to see like we did four years ago is a big and enthusiastic turnout for the president.

So I pay attention. They're very tight now. But the reality is, I think when people start considering the issues and really look at the substance of these folks, not the form, which we saw in debates, but the substance of what they're talking about, you'll see voters understand that the best plan for moving our economy forward lies with the president.

O'BRIEN: Most people who were polled, it's not a giant gap, but it's a substantial gap, I think it's fair to say, think that Paul Ryan is going to win, if you will, win the debate, if you pop up that poll there. What do you think are the biggest strengths and weaknesses? And be genuine, strengths and weaknesses of the vice president?

BOOKER: At the end of the day, this is a wonderful thing. If you want an authentic politician, there's no more raw, authentic politics than you get from the vice president. He is who he is. And I'm hoping that comes on tonight. Because I think the American public are going to see a guy who's really passionate and gets very excited about the dramatic differences. Now, that means that sometimes people accuse him of going off-script or whatever.

O'BRIEN: Which he does. Accuse him and he does.

BOOKER: But that's refreshing to me. I really crave, from both sides. This is why I liked McCain back in 1992 when he was running, because it was a rawness, it was a truth, shooting from the hip, as opposed to the guy who had to run hard to the right, like many Republicans have to do to get their primary wins and the like.

What we need tonight is just a pure, unadulterated honesty from both sides. I do not want to see the Paul Ryan that I saw in the debate -- in the convention speech, which had distortions of the truth, talking about steel mills closed under Bush, talking about Simpson-Bowles when he himself voted against it. I want to see the Paul Ryan back when he was unveiled the Ryan budget. Tell people the truth of really what you want to do to Medicare and Social Security, the kind of stuff you said until you were a candidate, and now you're trying to shift to the middle for votes. I want to hear the raw truth, because Americans are definitely going to have a real choice.

And the last thing I want to see is an explanation from both sides, how are you going to pay for what you want to do? This is a very detailed plan that people can get on Obama's website about the $4 trillion worth of cuts they want to do, very detailed. Some of the stuff is painful. What we hear from Romney and Ryan is no specifics whatsoever. The only specific they've given of something they'd cut is the cut to PBS, which is one ten thousandths of what we spend in the federal budget.

O'BRIEN: The $4 trillion number, which was a $5 trillion number, has been debated a lot, and has been fact checked at times to say false, partly because there's not enough detail to figure it out.

BOOKER: Where those cuts are going to come forward. So we could do what Bush did, expanding military spending, giving tax cuts to the wealthy. And this is what Romney wants to do, but he doesn't tell us how we're going to pay for it. He won't tell one specific loophole that he'll close.

So I'm not reflexively partisan. I want to see a substantive analysis of details o of what your plan is. Don't hide the ball like we had in law school. Tell us the truth of what you're going to do. Ryan used to do that when he was talking about the Ryan budget. He put specifics in the Ryan budget -- scary to me, talking about privatizing Social Security, voucherizing Medicare. But if that's what you want to do, tell the public. I don't want to see this candidacy -- I remember just weeks ago, Mitt Romney was a severe conservative. Now he's trying to tell people he's not. I really just want this one, and I think Biden's going to give it to us, to be raw, authentic truth telling in this debate.

O'BRIEN: President Obama said on the radio, he was talking to Tom Joyner on Tom Joyner's radio show. And he said he was just too polite, another sort of analysis of what went wrong. Let's play a little bit of that.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The debate, I think it's fair to say, I was just to polite. You know, because it's hard to sometimes just keep on saying what you're saying isn't true. It gets repetitive.


O'BRIEN: Would you say that was your analysis of how that went? Was the problem in that debate that he was just too polite?

BOOKER: Well, I'm not -- I wasn't in the president's debate prep, but there is a lot of right advice on a president to stay presidential. Don't get out there. I remember when Romney said, I should -- if that's right, president, I'll hire a new accountant. I wanted to scream out, Obama, say, keep your accountant. They're allowing you to pay only 13 percent in taxes. The rest of us should have accountants like that.

But that's like a shot I don't want to hear from my president. So he's got a fine line to walk. The reality is I would have liked to see some hard punches to the gut when Romney would say something factual inaccurate, like President Obama was raiding $716 billion from Medicare, which is factually inaccurate.

But I think the president learned a lot, he said it himself, from that first debate. I think the second one, you'll see him come out strong. But the reality is, I'm not interested, and I wish the American public, this is not "The Voice." This is not "American Idol," this is not about performances. This is about the facts of people's plans. And when I hear Romney dodge time and time again, giving Americans specifics, we're going to end up with a Bush president again, who's going to give more tax cuts to the wealthy who will not pay for them.

O'BRIEN: But when he dodges specifics, though, he does say, this is something that I would do in the legislature. I wouldn't -- his answer for why he's not giving details.

BOOKER: But he criticizes the president for saying the president should lead, he shouldn't wait for the legislature, he should come with a plan. I have the same problem in Newark, I have the same problem in the state of New Jersey. He's got to say, this is my plan. It may change, I'm willing to compromise with the other side, but I believe we should do this to Medicare. I believe we should do this to the American military. Romney's not doing that. What he's doing is telling us all that we want to hear, that you can get a tax break, that we can increase military spending, that we can do all these things. I'm just not going to tell you how we pay for it.

O'BRIEN: Do you think vice presidential debates matter? We certainly hope so, because we'll be covering it. But at the end of the day, do you think people say, so-and-so won and --

BOOKER: This debate matters. It really does. It matters when people come forward to tell the American people the substance. The last one had record viewership. I think you will be very pleased tonight, because I think everyone's going to tune in, because when it comes to Joe Biden -- if this were on pay-per-view, I would pay to watch this.

O'BRIEN: We'll give it to you for free.

BOOKER: You root for the Yankees and I'll pay for it.


O'BRIEN: We end as we start. Nice to see you, Mr. Mayor.

BOOKER: Great to see you again.

O'BRIEN: We'll continue to talk about the debate with the debate coach, Brett O'Donnell. He was back the other day talking about the presidential debate. Now he's going to talk about the VP debate, see exactly what each candidate needs to do to be successful tonight. At the bottom of the hour, we'll have Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. He'll be joining us. Of course, you can watch the VP debate tonight on CNN and Our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. eastern. I'll be part of that tonight heading out to Kentucky right after this program.

Also ahead, Jerry Sandusky blaming his victims for his sex abuse conviction, calling the young men ingrates and liars. We'll tell you the startling new letters that he and his wife also wrote to the judge.

And a tackle on the football field, but not between the players. It's why the coach literally ended up in handcuffs. Come on, people! It's our "Get Real."

Christine, what are you looking at in business?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Instead of punishing hackers, Google is rewarding them with a whole lot of o money. Hack Google and you could win $60,000. Who's behind the bug bounty, what's behind it, and hows it working out for them, next on STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business now. More evidence the housing market is healing. Foreclosures are at five-year lows, according to real estate tracking firm, Realty-track. U.S. stock futures are up, but there's a lot of uncertainty still in the markets this morning. A big reason is Europe's debt crisis. Standard & poor's downgraded Spain's credit rating overnight, citing risks to economic growth and budget problems.

All right, a hacker named Pinky Pie is $60,000 richer this morning. Google awarded its bug bounty to this teenage boy who goes by that handle for finding holes in Google's Chrome software during a hacker competition. It's the second time this teenager has won. And it's so interesting when you think about it. You know, just put out a contest out there, find a hole in our Chrome and I'll give you $60,000. It's cheaper than hiring a whole bunch more software engineers, right?

O'BRIEN: And the minute he finds the bug, they turn around and repair it. It's brilliant. Sounds like a made-for-TV movie.

We're counting down to debate night. Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan will go head to head tonight for the first and only time. The action will happen in this building in Kentucky. Former campaign adviser Brett O'Donnell usually comes and talks to us in person, but not today. He worked with Mitt Romney before his successful Florida debate, and also with John McCain as well. Nice to see you, Brett. Walk me through literally three things Joe Biden needs to do to be successful?

BRETT O'DONNELL, PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN DEBATE ADVISER: Well, I think for Joe Biden to be successful, he does have to get on offense. He's got to turn the tide and slow the momentum that the Romney campaign had coming out of last week. So the first thing is, he's got to get on offense. The second thing is, he can't make a mistake. Vice president Biden seems to have problems when he gets on offense. So he's got to avoid making the mistake.

But then the final thing is, he's got to make his experience work for him and not against him. He's got to appear to be the more experienced, seasoned candidate, the measured candidate, like he was against Sarah Palin, as opposed to being old and making his age work against him.

O'BRIEN: All right, three things that Paul Ryan needs to do to be successful tonight?

O'DONNELL: Well, Paul Ryan has got to do what governor Romney did last week. He's got to get on offense about the economy. He's got to pin the economy on Joe Biden and Barack Obama, and he can't get into the policy weeds. He's got to be that visionary. So he's got to appear to be more the CEO than the CFO, in terms of how he phrases and how he conducts himself in the debate. And then, finally, he's got to show that he's got a command of the economy. We've heard he does, but now's the chance for folks to really get to see that on display in the debate tonight.

O'BRIEN: So I think for both men, some of the challenges we've actually seen in the run-up. For Joe Biden, of course, it's the gaffes that people now talk about all the time. Let me play a little chunk of what I would call kind of a typical error from him. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: It was wonderful for children, by the way, having your Grand Pop live with you, having your great aunt and your uncle, for real. But those walls were awful thin. I wonder how the hell my parents did it. But that's a different story.



O'BRIEN: I would say that's kind of a typical one. Paul Ryan, we've seen, of late, struggles to actually give specifics, specifically when he was talking to FOX News. Listen to this.


RYAN: There's been a traditional Democrat and Republican consensus, lowering tax rates by broadening the tax base works. And you can --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you haven't given me the math --

RYAN: Well, I don't have the -- it would take me too long to go through all of the math.


O'BRIEN: So I would say those are going to be the big challenges, right?

O'DONNELL: Oh, I think so. I mean, I think if you start with vice president Biden, you know, the gaffe that you played was kind of humorous, but he's had some serious gaffes, particularly --

O'BRIEN: We had a lot to pick from, you're absolutely right. There was not a shortage.

O'DONNELL: Yes, yes, I mean, starting at the top of that list was his description of Barack Obama as the clean-looking black man. I mean, all of those gaffes can add up. And if he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, that he's the person who has to turn the momentum of the campaign, I think that's an awful lot of pressure to put on the vice president.

O'BRIEN: But for Paul Ryan, I think the lack of math, and I think some of what has come back to Mitt Romney has been, sort of, OK, what are the details, if he doesn't spell it out and do the math, that can be problematic, right?

O'DONNELL: Well, I think he's got to make sure he can transition the debate from the Ryan plan to the Romney vision. So he has to describe where that ticket would take the economy. I think he's got to stay in the same area, though, that Governor Romney did. Governor Romney was able to list off sort of the top lines of where he wants to take the country, but stayed mainly on offense in terms of talking about the economic failures that they see as causing the problems we're in right now. I think that's where he has to stay.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to watch tonight, Brett O'Donnell, presidential debate campaign adviser, nice to see you, as always. Appreciate it.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, a football player who was tackled by the opposing team - not a kid on the opposite team. It's the coach who then ended up in handcuffs. It's our "Get Real" this morning. We'll talk about that. The STARTING POINT team is heading in. We'll talk about other things as well, the VP debate, of course, included. We're back right after this short break. Hi, guys. Good morning.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. A few stories to tell you about this morning. Before Ft. Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan goes on trial for murder, a court will decide whether he can be forced to shave his beard. Lawyers for Hasan also want the judge removed from the case, claiming he overstepped his authority by issuing the shave order.

A computer breach at Northwest Florida State College has compromised the identity of more than 200,000 former and current students. The school confirms some of the accessed information includes Social Security data. Wow. That's got to be --

O'BRIEN: I get letters like that, just a note to let you know some of your data may have been compromised? I've gotten about five of them in the last year, I would say.


O'BRIEN: No, I think it's people who have actually broken in and they're warning me.

MARTIN: I think they're spammers. Like the Nigerian spam.

O'BRIEN: Some random Will Cain comes and sits on the set, maybe replacing you. We'll see.


O'BRIEN: Our team this morning, Ben Smith is the editor in chief of "Buzzfeed," Roland martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV 1, and Will Cain is a columnist with our "Get Real" this morning is all about football. Talk about unnecessary roughness. Football coach Payton Utah faces criminal charges, knocking over a 13-year-old player on the opposing team. There's a coach, his name is Nate Harris, basically sticks his arm out and clotheslines this 13-year-old kid as he comes running across the sideline. He hits the kid so hard, again, this kid is 13, he suffers a concussion. They eject the coach and later arrest him and charge him with second-degree felony child abuse. MARTIN: This is where you need the crazy parent. We've seen the video where the parents go nuts. This is the one where the parents go nuts, go ahead, take your time.


O'BRIEN: On the coach?

MARTIN: On the coach, take your time.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's like a perverted version of one of the most famous plays in college football. I'm thinking of the 1954 Cotton Bowl. Running back running down the sidelines, Alabama player sitting on the bench runs on to the field and tackles him out of the blue, from the sidelines.

O'BRIEN: I don't follow a lot of football, but you can't do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course this is worse, because this is a child.

O'BRIEN: Yes, terrible.

MARTIN: That's where you have no problem with a coach getting beat down.

O'BRIEN: We have a couple of crazy coach stories in the news today. There was like a fight with a bunch of coaches. You guys had it on your show earlier this morning.

BERMAN: I coach my kids, my 5-year-old kid's soccer team. And there's a whole list of rules, pages long about how you behave and not behave. And there's a reason why because this stuff happens.

MARTIN: Who have you punched, John?

BERMAN: I am very respectful of everyone's feelings on that field at all times.

MARTIN: There was no sincerity in what he said.

O'BRIEN: That was like a legal phrase. And my lawyer has told me to say --

MARTIN: But I've tripped a kid.

O'BRIEN: If he deserved it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, you heard from President Obama's camp. Coming up, we're going to talk to Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, talk about the VP debate, which is happening tonight.

Also, he is in the books now with a record-breaking throw. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will join us to talk about another challenge for him. It's to get kids in shape. That and much more ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Let's begin with John berman who has a look at the day's top stories. Good morning.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Soledad. New this morning, a senior security official at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, has been shot to death on his way to work. Officials say he was a Yemeni national. The embassy in Sanaa was targeted by protesters last month over an anti-Muslim produced here in America.

Jerry Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, blaming the victims for his sex abuse conviction. The couple sent a letter to the judge in his sentencing instead of asking for mercy, Sandusky attacked the boys he molested as ungrateful liars.

He wrote, quote, "What would be the outcome if all the accusers and their families were investigated? All their issues would surface. They would no longer be poor, innocent people, as portrayed."

The fate of the University of Texas affirmative action program now rest for the Supreme Court. The justices heard oral arguments yesterday in a case that could impact admission policies at private and public colleges. Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas claiming she was denied admission to her dream school because she was white.

As the death toll in the fungal meningitis outbreak rises, calls for more oversight. At least two lawmakers are introducing bills to strengthen the FDA's oversight of compounding pharmacies, including NECC.

The one linked to this outbreak, which shares property with a garbage dump. A separate compounding facility under the same ownership is under federal inspection. Twelve people have died. At least 137 infected in 11 states. The hardest hit states, Tennessee, Michigan, and Virginia.

A new study claims that more young and middle-aged adults are having strokes. In 1994, about 13 percent of strokes happened to adults between the ages of 20 and 55.

And in 2005, the number in that same age group jumped to more than 18.5 percent. Why the change? The study author says it could because of an increase in risk factors for stroke in younger Americans, including diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol.

BERMAN: And this just in. The Nobel Prize in literature was just awarded to Chinese author Mo Yan. The Royals British Academy of Scientists saying his work merges folk tales, history and the contemporary with hallucinatory realism, a favorite of Will Cain, hallucinatory realism. The prize is worth about $1.2 million.

O'BRIEN: I love that.

BERMAN: I'm high on reality!

MARTIN: Now we get to pick it up.

BERMAN: It's $1.2 million.

O'BRIEN: Can I tell you something? I really would like to interview Jerry Sandusky because what he is saying is so insane. I would love to just sit down and dig into what he is thinking to say that he --

BERMAN: His wife was on that letter too, though.

O'BRIEN: And her too.

MARTIN: A lot of folks in jail will get a chance to chat with him.>

O'BRIEN: All right, let's get back to the vice presidential debate. Joe Biden, the vice president, and Paul Ryan, the challenger, will have just one chance to debate before the election. You can see them both toe to toe tonight.

It will happen right here on CNN. It will happen right there on that center, the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville, Kentucky. The debate takes on, of course, new significance after the victory for Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate.

The president is now admitting that he had a bad night. You think? And that bad night is helping boost Mitt Romney in the polls from big states. Romney is ahead by one point in Virginia, according to a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll.

He's gained a point in Florida, that race is very close. Gained two points in Ohio, but Obama's lead in Ohio is a little bit more comfortable there. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is in Kentucky for the debate.

It's nice to have you with us this morning. Great to see you. So let's talk about Ohio, if I can for a moment. I just showed that poll a moment ago, and good morning to you, of course.

It's obviously being tightened up, that race although President Obama is still ahead. Do you think that the VP debate really does impact poll numbers? I mean, is that going to happen?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, I think that debates matter. You know, I've got to tell you. I think we've all been surprised over the last year and a half by how many Americans have been very, very interested in these debates.

You recall -- I mean, we had about, you know, 2002 debates during our Republican primary. And, you know, CNN would have -- would show one of our debates and we would have seven million people watching a primary debate after going through 20 of them.

And so I think these things matter. Americans are really tuned into this, especially after last week's debate, where the president just did a belly flop. I think people are going to be tuning in tonight, more so than they ever have before.

O'BRIEN: Paul Ryan, if you look at a poll, is expected to win the debate. But yesterday, he said -- well, you know, I know. But there's a poll, people think he's going to win.

PRIEBUS: It's like, who's going to win? OK, are the Packers going to win this weekend? I don't know.

O'BRIEN: I'm sure there's a poll that I could find that would tell you, yes, they are. And another one that will tell you, no, they want. But this particular poll says that he will win and he has said this about it being a nervous situation. Listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Joe Biden's been on this stage many times before. It's my first time. So, sure, it's a nervous situation because Joe Biden's one of the most experienced debaters we have in modern politics.


O'BRIEN: Do you think that's true? That he's nervous or it's a nervous situation?

PRIEBUS: I think everyone gets -- I mean, I would they everyone would get nervous. I mean, I get nervous watching it. I mean, so, I don't think it's unusual. I think it's normal.

And obviously, Joe Biden's been around a long time and he's been through this many times. I think he's going to do a pretty good job tonight. It's Paul's first time.

O'BRIEN: What do you worry about for Paul Ryan? What are you worried about, if you had to pick something to be worried about.

PRIEBUS: I'm not really worried, generally, about any of it.

O'BRIEN: I don't believe you, by the way, at all, really? You're the head of the RNC. Come on, man.

PRIEBUS: Wait a second. No, I mean, generally. I have known Paul -- listen. I've known Paul for a long, long time. He's always hit the ball out of the park, but let me tell you something. This is his first time. Joe Biden's been doing this since the 1800s.

He will do a solid job. So, you know what, they're two different guys. They're two different guys, but they're both very relatable people. They can speak with authenticity. So it will be a great night. I think we can all agree on that.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you about the abortion issue, which has now resurfaced in this conversation, around what Mitt Romney has said. In an interview he had in -- I guess, it was an interview Paul Ryan did in Florida. He said this. I'm going to play that first.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about the difference between your position on abortion and your running mate's?

RYAN: Our position is unified. Our position is consistent and hasn't changed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your position?

RYAN: You'll find -- you'll find -- I'm sure you'll find out in these debates.


O'BRIEN: Do you think that's the way to answer a question like that? You think "you'll find out in the debates." I mean, it kind of leaves it -- if there's been a criticism, it's been, detail, detail, detail, where is it? And that seemed to be, where's the detail?

PRIEBUS: You know, I think that when you get -- I don't know who said that, but when you get into these discussions, you know, there's not the type of thing that you can do in 30 seconds.

But the fact of the matter is, both of these guys are pro-life. There's no doubt about it. And I see the flap over this "Des Moines Register" question, but I don't -- there's no -- there's nothing there, there. I mean, the fact is --

O'BRIEN: You don't think so? Let's walk through that. Let's play a little bit of what Mitt Romney said to the "Des Moines Register." Because people are talking about it so I'm not sure there's no there, there. Let's play that first.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you intend to pursue any legislations specifically regarding abortion?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I don't -- there's no legislation with regards -- regarding abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda.


O'BRIEN: And then his campaign right after that says this, "Governor Romney would, of course, support legislation aimed at providing greater protections of life."

That's from Andrea Saul, she's the spokeswoman for the campaign. And then, of course, in the past, he has said, and recent past, on Wednesday, he has said this.


ROMNEY: I think I've said time and again, I'm a pro-life candidate. I'll be a pro-life president. The actions I'll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget.


O'BRIEN: So I'm going to remove funding for Planned Parenthood from my budget. That would be legislation. The first clip I played, he said, there will be no legislation in regards to abortion, that I'm familiar that would be part of my agenda. That sounds completely contradictory to me. How is it not?

PRIEBUS: Yes. And -- well, listen, you spent all this time setting up the question, and I appreciate that, but the fact of the matter is, what he's referring to is whether or not there were piles of legislation in the Congress, what specific bills in the Congress, in regard to abortion are you going to --

O'BRIEN: Reince, that wasn't the question --

PRIEBUS: -- to be pushing over the next four years. The fact of the matter, yes, it is --

O'BRIEN: No, we played the question.

PRIEBUS: - is entirely -- you can keep saying that, but the fact of the matter is, is that Mitt Romney has been absolutely, 100 percent consistent on this issue. That he's pro-life that there will be no funding of abortion through Planned Parenthood using taxpayer dollars.

That he would use an executive order, the Mexico City executive order, so that funding isn't used to pay for abortions abroad. I mean, this is just -- listen. You want --

O'BRIEN: Do you intend to pursue legislation regarding abortion? So I'm going to read to you the verbatim of what that interview said. Do you intend to pursue legislation --

PRIEBUS: You can keep saying that all you want.

O'BRIEN: I'm only repeating it because it's a complete contradiction.

PRIEBUS: Just keep repeating it and repeating and repeating it.

O'BRIEN: I would like you to answer it. Explain to me how it's not a contradiction.

PRIEBUS: And I'm going to keep giving you the same -- it isn't a contradiction because he's sitting there in front of "The Des Moines Register" editorial board. They're talking about specific legislation in Congress.

You know what? He is going to have a piece of legislation in his budget that says that there isn't going to be taxpayer money used for abortion.

O'BRIEN: So that's legislation then?

PRIEBUS: Why can't you accept that? O'BRIEN: Because you've just admitted a contradiction. I hear you, I get it. I get it. You're going to stick to your -- I'm going to stick to my --

PRIEBUS: He's talking about congressional --

O'BRIEN: That wasn't the question.

PRIEBUS: He is talking about congressional -- he's talking about bills in Congress as they're sitting there today, what are you going to, as it sits in Congress today, be pushing in regard to abortion legislation.

O'BRIEN: So that's an excellent analysis of it, but that was not the reporter's question to him. We got to leave it there, Reince, I'm out of time.

PRIEBUS: Soledad, I wish you would be as passionate about taking Barack Obama to task for every one of his promises and for every one of his changes that he didn't follow through on.

O'BRIEN: Which we do all the time. You know what, trust me --

PRIEBUS: Yes, sure.

O'BRIEN: I will send you the tweets from people who hate me on the Republican side and hate me on the Democratic side.

PRIEBUS: I don't hate you.

O'BRIEN: I don't mean you. I know you love me.

PRIEBUS: I come on all the time.

O'BRIEN: Of course, I assume that. I know you love me, but I'm just telling you, the people who watch us. But I've got to tell you, we're going to ask tough questions of everybody, I don't care what side they're on, honestly. Nice to see you, Reince. I will see you this evening in Kentucky.


MARTIN: Sounds like he doesn't see you.

CAIN: Everybody loves me. I don't know what that's like.

O'BRIEN: At the top of the hour, we're going to hear from the Obama campaign senior adviser, David Axelrod, will be joining us. I'm sure people will tweet about that too.

You can watch the vice presidential debate tonight live tonight on CNN and Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk to Drew Brees. He likes me. We'll talk to him just days after breaking a 52-year-old passing record. I'll read to you a little bit of what Johnny Unitas' son sent to Drew Brees. It is amazing. That's straight ahead. We're back in a moment.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. A few stories we're watching right now.

Plans are underway to transfer a critically wounded anti-Taliban activist who is all of 14 years old to a different hospital in Pakistan. She is in critical condition this morning. Three military officials saying they want to move Malala Yousufzai from the military hospital in Bashawar to a hospital in (inaudible). The Taliban targeted and shot this young girl on Tuesday.

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will try again Sunday to set the record for the world's highest jump. Strong winds have kept Baumgartner from attempting his skydive from 23 miles above Roswell, New Mexico. He is hoping to break the sound barrier on the way down.

And all tangled up, two men spotted this deer, Tuesday, caught in a soccer net in Tennessee. They were able to hold the doe down and they cut the netting off.

In San Francisco, another rescue, one of two sea lions tangled in what appears to be a fishing line has been rescued. You can see the line around the neck. A veterinarian will remove that from the sea lion today. A second sea lion was apparently scared by a boat and disappeared back into the water.

O'BRIEN: All right, well, don't go anywhere. We're going to continue our conversation. Up next, we're going to talk to Saints quarterback Drew Brees. He is going to join us live, talk about a new record that he has broken that's straight ahead. See you in a moment.


O'BRIEN: The football from Sunday's record breaking throw by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Brees broke Johnny Unitas' 52-year-old record. He joins us this morning from New Orleans where we should mention he is also the spokesman for Play 60 and also Kinect from X-Box 360. We'll talk about that in just a moment. First, congratulations. How do you feel about it?

DREW BREES, NFL QUARTERBACK, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Tremendous honor, very humbling. It was really a special night, a historic night. So many people are part of that and just glad that it's over with.

O'BRIEN: Really?

BREES: Obviously the pressure mounting, going into the game. You just want to focus on doing your job and, you know, executing each play and winning the game. But glad that it all came together the way that it did.

O'BRIEN: "Sports Illustrated" said this is going to define you more than even winning the Super Bowl. Do you think that's true?

BREES: You know, you play the game to win championships certainly at the quarterback position, too. At the end of the day, you're evaluated by wins, losses and championship championships.

Along the way, when you're able to break records, such as this one, I think that's, you know, part of certainly your memories and reflection of this game when it's all said and done. Because of all the people you go on that journey with, that's what make it is so special.

CAIN: Drew, this is Will Cain. Hall of Fame quarterback, Pittsburgh Stealer Terry Bradshaw spoke to exactly what you were talking about, records versus championships. I want to get your opinion on something he said.

He said this record didn't blow him away. He's not into that stuff. I'm into records, winning football games as I'm into winning Super Bowls. What do you think about what Bradshaw had to say?

BREES: Well, I actually agree. I'm into winning football games and winning championships as well. That's my number one priority. But certainly there are things that come along like this record and other records that we've broken as a team that are -- you know, they're significant.

And it's something that so many people can share in. So many people can be part of. I think it's just part of the game just like winning or losing in other things, something that fans can get excited about.

It's something that a lot of people tuned in on Sunday night football to watch us do that, just like they tuned in last year on Monday night football to watch us break Dan Marino's record. I say us because it's a team deal. Even though maybe one name goes on the line, the record line, it's really a team record.

O'BRIEN: Johnny Unitas' son wrote the nicest letter, really, I have ever read. I'm going to read one little tiny line from it. It goes on to talk about while this is important there are more important things in life, saying this is what his father would have said to you.

He said, "You're a great quarterback but even a better man," talking about the great humanitarian work that you do, which brings us to this project you're pitching. This 60 Million Minute Challenge, where you are encouraging kids to play for 60 minutes every single day. Tell me a little bit about that.

BREES: Yes, this is really a great program where Kinect for X-Box 360 and NFL have geared up to play for 60 Million Minutes Challenge, which basically is to recruit one million kids of all ages so this could be me and you as well, to commit to getting 60 minutes of active play per day in the fight against childhood obesity.

As we know, one in three children is considered either overweight or obese, which is a scary statistic in our country right now. So this is one of the ways to combat that, by getting kids aware of, you know, living a healthy and active lifestyle. Certainly by the way that they can exercise outside or through interactive gaming, which is what Kinect for X-Box 360 is all about. People can actually get the 60 Million Minute app or go on to X-Box Facebook page to sign up.

And win the opportunity to get a social autograph by me or other NFL players on their Facebook wall and obviously pledge to be active for 60 minutes a day.

O'BRIEN: Drew Brees, it's so nice to see you. Congratulations once again.

BREES: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: You bet. We got to take a break. Back in a moment.