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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Obama, Romney Gearing Up For Round 2; Jump From the Edge of Space; Baseball Round Up: Tigers, Cards Clock Wins; Pre-Trial Hearing In Italian Ship Disaster

Aired October 15, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Brand-new polls out this morning in the race for the White House. This comes just before round two of the presidential debates this week. So we're going to break down the numbers for you. That's happening straight ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus, big, new developments this morning on the 14-year-old girl in Pakistan shot in the head after standing up for the rights of girls to get an education. The latest on her recovery coming up.

SAMBOLIN: And an epic smackdown. The Yankees lose again to the Detroit Tigers. We have the lowlights coming up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (on-camera): It is a glorious, glorious morning.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Oh, shush. Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. We're really happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East.

SAMBOLIN: So, we're going to begin with the highly anticipated rematch. The second presidential debate is just a day away, and the race is as tight as it gets. Two brand-new polls to tell you about this morning. So, first, from "The Washington Post" and ABC News, the president with a slim three-point lead among likely voters.

That is well within the poll's margin of error. And it's even closer in this political George Washington University poll that was released one hour ago. The president's lead among likely voters, just one point. So, this is a statistical dead heat. In the battleground states of political George Washington University poll has Mitt Romney ahead of the president by two points.

Of course, that's essentially tied and while the ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows the president with a five-point lead in the battleground states -- are you following me here? CNN political director, Mark Preston, is live from Hofstra University on Long Island, the scene of tomorrow night's crucial president debate.

I don't know if everybody's following me on these polls. This is compounding, but it is statistically a dead heat.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, no doubt, Zoraida. Look, we can boil it down to this, the race is essentially tied right now nationally in some of the battleground states. Barack Obama has lost some ground given the fact that he had such a lackluster performance a couple weeks ago in his first presidential debate.

PRESTON: Yes, no doubt, Zoraida. Look, we can boil it down to this: the race is essentially tied right now nationally and in some of the battleground states. Barack Obama has lost some ground, given the fact that he had such a lackluster performance a couple weeks ago in his first presidential debate. Mitt Romney hoping to build upon his strong performance. You know, Robert Gibbs, one of the senior advisers for President Obama, was on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday with Candy Crowley and gave us a little bit of insight into what to expect to hear from the president tomorrow night. Let's hear what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, SENIOR OBAMA ADVISER: When he walked off that stage and he also knew as he's watched the tape of that debate that he's got to be more energetic. I think you'll see somebody who's very passionate about the choice that our country faces, and putting that choice in front of voters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: And you know, Ed Gillespie, who's a senior adviser for Mitt Romney, was on the same program with Candy Crowley. He said it is about a choice. It's about a choice for the next four years. Let's hear what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED GILLESPIE, SENIOR ROMNEY ADVISER: Choice election, and the fact what we saw is even if he changes his style, and whatever political tactic the president settles on as being in his best interest for this debate, he can't change his record and he can't change his policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: So, you know what, Zoraida? There's so much on the line. Thirty-six hours from now we'll have the second presidential debate, Mitt Romney matched up against Barack Obama here at Hofstra University right behind me. Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: So there is a change of style, right? It's a town hall meeting. So what can we expect?

PRESTON: Well, Zoraida, we're going to hear questions now from uncommitted voters that live here in New York. Now, New York is not a battleground state. It will go for Barack Obama; we strongly expect it will go for Barack Obama on Election Day. But we'll be hearing directly from voters, hearing what questions they have for the candidates. Also the candidates are going to be sitting on high chairs and they're going to be able to walk around the stage, Zoraida, perhaps give it a more intimate feeling than in the first presidential debate and certainly from that vice presidential debate from last week. Mitt Romney will get the first question, Zoraida, and there will be no closing statements in this 90 minute debate tomorrow night.

SAMBOLIN: We are really looking forward to it. Mark Preston live for us. Thank you. Just ahead we'll get reaction from Republican strategist Ana Navarro and former senior adviser to President Clinton, Richard Socarides, as well. And CNN's Candy Crowley moderates the presidential town hall debate live tomorrow night. Special coverage starts at 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

And the 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban is on her way to Britain at this hour. The flight carrying Malala Yousufzai is expected to land later this morning. She will be treated at a facility that cares for children with severe injuries. The Taliban tried to kill Malala last week because she's an outspoken proponent of the right of Pakistani girls to get an education. The Taliban condemns that as Western thinking.

BERMAN: The search for the body of a 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student has been suspended as her suspected killer is about to appear in court. Authorities have been searching for Elizabeth Mrriott's body on the ground and in the water surrounding Pierce Island in Portsmouth. Although no body has been found, today, 29- year-old Seth Mazzaglia, a martial arts instructor, will be arraigned on second degree murder charges.

SAMBOLIN: Black box recordings from the Costa Concordia's bridge are expected to be on display this week as pretrial hearings get underway for the ship's captain. Thirty people were killed when the cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Italy. That was back in January. Italian authorities have charged the captain, Francesco Schettino, with manslaughter. He is also accused of abandoning ship.

BERMAN: The Detroit Tigers now halfway to the World Series. They beat the New York Yankees 3-0 in the Bronx in the second game of their American League Championship Season. The Tigers winning the first two games. They did it again in Yankee Stadium. Game three tomorrow in Detroit. Justin Verlander on the mound for the Tigers. That will be tough for the Yankees.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals, they draw first blood in the NLCS. The Cards beat the San Francisco Giants 6-4. The Cardinals are on fire. They will play game two tonight.

SAMBOLIN: Are you familiar with the name Felix Baumgartner?

BERMAN: Yes, he's the crazy daredevil.

SAMBOLIN: The whole world. So, he did it. The Austrian daredevil rose to the edge of space, 24 miles up, and jumped -- breaking the sound barrier on the way down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, STRATOSPHERE JUMPER: Sometimes you have to get up really to see how small you are. I'm going home now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jump away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That's the jump that I find absolutely crazy.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible. I don't know that I could have jumped. But he was well prepared. At one point, Baumgartner was falling at 833.9 miles per hour. He landed safely in the New Mexico desert. Baumgartner says it's his final jump; he plans to become a helicopter rescue pilot.

BERMAN: All right. It is now five minutes after the hour. More than 200 people now infected with fungal meningitis in 14 states across the country. Our medical unit is standing by live in Atlanta to bring us the latest details. This really is alarming. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to early start. nine minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. So glad you're with us this morning. Contaminated pain injections have now sickened 205 people. Fifteen people have died of fungal meningitis. But there are real people behind those numbers, people who went in for medical help and ended up dying.

CNN medical correspondent, senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, spent time with the family of one such man.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord give us the strength to go forward.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Something's missing in the Lovelace house. Five generations gather in mourning. Eddie Lovelace, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, Sunday school teacher at his church, and a circuit court judge in Albany, Kentucky, dead -- a suspected case of fungal meningitis.

What do you miss?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the center of our universe as a family.

COHEN: Judge Eddie Lovelace was a healthy 78-year-old man -- worked full-time, walked three miles a day. When in the middle of September, he started feeling dizzy and slurring his speech.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in the kitchen and he said, "My legs don't work right." He said, "There's something wrong with my legs."

COHEN: Lovelace had had a stroke. Lovelace died five days after being admitted to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a nightmare.

COHEN: Later the doctors put it together. Lovelace had been in a car accident and received three injections with steroids for back and neck pain. The medicine he received was likely made by the New England Compounding Center. After his death, these injections were recalled because of fungal contamination, which can cause strokes.

Now all his family can do is remember the devoted public servant, the grandfather who let his granddaughters play with Barbies behind the bench when they were little while he heard court cases.

What kind of a man was your dad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the most intelligent man that I've ever met. His memory was uncanny. If you needed advice, irregardless of what the subject was, you could always take his and trust it.

COHEN: His family looks back and asks why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The decisions to save money, the decisions not to regulate drugs, decisions not to oversee these facilities, those decisions affect lives every day. And if different decisions had been made at certain points along the way, my father would be here today.

COHEN: I mean your father just went in for, really, a very routine procedure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did. And he went there for pain relief. He went there to get help.

COHEN: And he died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Elizabeth Cohen joins us live now from Atlanta. Elizabeth, this is such a tragedy. And the question we all want to know is, was this preventable? The judge's son seems to indicate that he thinks his father would be alive if the drug had been regulated properly.

COHEN: All right, John, there's no question the general consensus is these compounding pharmacies are not regulated as much as they should be and that the bulk of the regulation is done by the states. There's a lot of talk in Congress now about having better federal oversight and federal regulation of these compounding pharmacies because this is not the first time that there's been an outbreak in connection with these compounding pharmacies.

BERMAN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen in Atlanta. Thanks very much for being with us this morning. SAMBOLIN: That's really tough to watch, isn't it? Twelve minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with our top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, again, you two. Well, President Obama and Mitt Romney are off the campaign trail and busy gearing up for tomorrow night's second presidential debate. It takes place at Hofstra University on Long Island. Romney is getting ready in Bedford, Massachusetts. The president is preparing in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is a live picture from inside the debate hall - there it is. Our own Candy Crowley moderates. Our live coverage begins tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

When it comes to the presidential race, comedian Stephen Colbert says there is a difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney. But he says he doesn't know what that difference is. Colbert clarified what he expects to see from both Obama and Romney on NBC's "Meet the Press".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": I think there is a possibility that Obama would be, say, more aggressive -- a more aggressive performer in the second act of his presidency. And I don't really know how -- I also don't know how Mitt Romney would govern. He might govern as a technocrat. That sort of seems to have been his career. And like the guy from Pepsi who comes in to run GM, you know, he can't tell us what he's going to do because he hasn't seen the books yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And I think that was Stephen Colbert, the person, not the Stephen Colbert, the comedian, you saw in that interview there. Colbert said he would not run for office, adding, "I have said terrible things with a straight face. Can you imagine the political ads that could be run against me?"

Longtime Senator Arlen Specter is being remembered this morning as a mentor and a political institution in Pennsylvania. He served 30 years in the Senate, most as a Republican before switching to the Democratic party in 2010. Specter died Sunday at 82 after a long battle with cancer. In a statement, Vice President Biden said, quote, "Arlen Specter was a great Senator who lived his life the way he died, with dignity and courage. He was my friend and I admired him a great deal."

Aaron Rodgers rewriting the record books. The Packers quarterback threw a career high six touchdown passes as Green Bay handed the Houston Texans their first loss of the season last night, 42-24. Only one unbeaten team remains in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons. I have a terrible time saying that this morning. They knocked off the Oakland Raiders, 23-20, on a last-second 55-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. The Falcons are 6-0. Mitt Romney raised some eyebrows when he mentioned Big Bird by name during the first presidential debate saying he wants to cut federal funding for PBS. Now some "Sesame Street" fans fighting back with plans for a Million Muppet March to take place November 3rd at the National Mall in Washington, just three days before the election.

BERMAN: I didn't know there were a million muppets.

ROMANS: Me either.

BERMAN: All right, that will be interesting to see.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

BERMAN: Fifteen minutes past the hour right now. Tropical Storm Rafael gaining steam. It is still hurricane season. Let's get to Rob Marciano for the latest.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys.

Three hundred miles north of Puerto Rico, almost a hurricane can winds of 70 miles an hour, drifting further away from at least the Caribbean. It will make a run at Bermuda and be close enough to the U.S. and be strong enough to roll up some tides and maybe some rip currents across the Eastern Seaboard. But there you go, there's your track over the next few days.

Also watching hurricane Paul, that's in the Pacific Ocean. And that's going to make a run at the Baja of California, maybe bring some moisture into that part of the world.

Speaking of Tropics, certainly feels fairly tropical across the Northeast right now. Temperatures are in the 60s, 63 Scranton, 64 degrees in the Big Apple, 61 in Boston. It will be a little bit humid, certainly. And we've got a little front that's going to be pressing across the I-95 corridor later on today. Right now, not a whole lot of action to it to the North.

But this afternoon, certainly after 2:00, 3:00, expect some showers across New York, Philly, Baltimore, D.C., and up through Boston, as well. Down across the South right now, moving across Atlanta where there are some showers and thunderstorms hitting the ATL.

Speaking of showers, not so much thunderstorms but rain finally across the Pacific Northwest. Boy, it has been incredibly dry. I mean, they typically don't get rain during the summer. But they had less than a tenth of an inch over an 80 day stretch in Seattle. Now the faucet has opened up. Rainfall amounts yesterday, 3.28 in Matlock, seeing over 2.5 inches of rainfall, And very active pattern setting up here not only for the Pacific Northwest, but much of the northern tier, and they'll get more rain up there.

Dry, warm Santa Anas going across parts of SoCal. They'll be quite across the Midwest. And this front may cause some severe weather across the low country of the Carolinas later on this afternoon. They'll be warm across the Northeast, 68 degrees and fairly soupy. Behind the front not terribly cool, 60 degrees in Chicago and 89 degrees in Los Angeles. Still summer out there, really toasty.

Guys, back up to you.

BERMAN: Thanks very much, Rob. Thank you for that soupy Northeast this morning as you put it.

MARCIANO: Enjoy.

SAMBOLIN: Seventeen minutes past the hour. We will enjoy that.

Coming up, the stock market is on the rebound. But just how much when it comes to the year? Christine Romans puts it into perspective for us right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-one minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

Let's start with stocks and how they're doing so far this year. Christine Romans has a little look for us.

ROMANS: Well, it was a tough last week. But futures are up this morning, so we'll watch the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P 500 to see if that holds true. We got data coming out at 8:30. So things could change, and we're coming off the worst weeks for the Dow in more than four months.

Now, it's still up 7 percent this year. But last week was tough. The year, though, you've got monetary stimulus from the Fed. You've got all kinds of signs that the U.S. is sort of the only game in the world at the moment. That's why stocks are doing well for the year.

This week is a pretty big week for investors you guys. There's a Sprint deal this morning, a $20 billion deal for 70 percent of Sprint. The retail sales data that's out at 8:30. We got housing data , and all these earning reports.

I think 40 percent of the S&P 500 companies are going to report earnings this week. So, wow, buckle up because you could see a lot of whiplash from that.

In terms of housing, you've heard me saying this for months but it looks like we're seeing a bottom here. Here's the reason. We've got rebounding home prices, rebounding construction. We've got foreclosures now at a five-year low.

There still are a lot of foreclosures happening but banks are managing the whole process. The Fed pushing mortgage rates to near record lows. You've never been able to refinance so cheaply with 15-year money. Less than 3 percent.

And Barclays Capital put out a report recently forecasting that home prices, which fell by more than one-third after the bubble burst in 2007, could be back to peak levels as soon as 2015.

SAMBOLIN: Huh.

ROMANS: And prices would rise by a percent or more annually. Among the more bullish housing reports I've seen that one from Barclays.

BERMAN: That soon?

ROMANS: Others have it more like 10 years further out. So, we'll see.

But just the fact that we're talking about this shows you that some of this early signs of a bottoming in the housing market might be true.

The one thing you need to know about your money today, when the front page of "The Washington Post" has a story about home flippers you know the bottom in housing is in. Until now, the money in real estate has been made by people with cash and by international investors.

The recovery is now spreading to people who live in their homes. It's early the housing recovery, guys, but it is real.

SAMBOLIN: There are there still certain parts of the country, though, that are really suffering. We know Florida was one of them. Nevada was another one.

ROMANS: The West is still lagging. The West is still lagging. There are still parts of California that are just blown out, just completely blown out. And where you haven't seen a stabilizing in jobs, that's been a harder part -- harder places for the housing market to start to rebound. But it's so interesting, you know, when you talk about flippers, in particular. This got a very bad reputation at the height of the bubble, right, then, at the end, when the whole bubble burst.

But now, the flippers have been cash investors, international investors, but now people who aren't like mega millionaires are starting to do this again. They're finding properties in their neighborhoods. They're buying them, mostly for cash. They can't still hard to get credit, and they're turning them around and starting to make a profit again.

And these are the things that smooth out the rough edges of a rough bottom in the housing market.

SAMBOLIN: What's interesting about this particular story, which is on the front page of "The Washington Post," this is 25-year-old guy who's making about $125,000 a year flipping homes. He says while all of my friends can't find jobs working 9:00 to 5:00, this is what I'm doing and it's working out. It's not for everybody. Doesn't always work.

ROMANS: You have to have access to cash in the first place to be able to buy the houses.

BERMAN: Can't believe what you told me before, a Barclays report saying we'll be back at peak by 2015.

ROMANS: Yes, peak prices by 2015.

BERMAN: That would be extraordinary.

ROMANS: Now, in some zip codes, things are already coming back. It's where there's jobs and where the economy is growing.

SAMBOLIN: I'd like to see those zip codes. I thought that would be really great.

ROMANS: CNN money has a whole spread of this. I'll tweet it and send it to you.

SAMBOLIN: OK, great. Thank you. Thanks, Christine.

BERMAN: Twenty-four minutes after the hour right now.

That's something -- you do want to see something you never want to se like ever? A Navy nuclear submarine collides with a ship off the East Coast. Sounds alarming. We will have that story coming up.

And if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time at your desk top and mobile phone, just got to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Just three weeks to go until Election Day and final preps in full swing this morning for the next presidential debate. We will talk strategy straight ahead.

SAMBOLIN: Plus, a teenage girl who contracted a flesh-eating bacteria makes an extraordinary recovery. So good, in fact, that she was able to make it to her homecoming dance.

BERMAN: That's great. And then a jump from the edge of outer space. Look at this.

SAMBOLIN: Oh.

BERMAN: Most importantly, this was a successful jump. We promise. And we have brand-new point of view video of that jump coming up.

SAMBOLIN: I'd say you would have to push me, Berman.

BERMAN: I'd be willing.

SAMBOLIN: No way I would jump.

BERMAN: I'd be willing, I would.

SAMBOLIN: That's terrible.

BERMAN: That's a deal.

SAMBOLIN: I just walked right into that one.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is 29 minutes after the hour right now.

And we have some brand spanking new poll numbers just released this morning. It shows President Obama and Mitt Romney in a statistical dead heat. A brand-new poll from ABC News and "The Washington Post" shows the president with a 49 percent lead over Mitt Romney, who's got 46 percent. And the latest "Politico", George Washington University battleground poll out just minutes ago has the president at 49 percent and Mitt Romney at 48 percent.

These new numbers raise the stakes even higher for tomorrow night's presidential debate on Long Island, this is live picture of the debate hall right now. That debate, of course, moderated by CNN's very own Candy Crowley.

And joining us now to talk about this second presidential debate, Ana Navarro, a former adviser to Jon Huntsman and John McCain and a CNN contributor. And right here in studio, Richard Socarides, former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

Ana, I want to start with you, because, obviously, we've been talking about the effects of the first presidential debate and how Mitt Romney seems to turn this race around.

There's a very interesting statistic from this new "Politico"/George Washington University poll. They asked, who do you think will win the election? Before the first debate, people said President Obama, 61 percent said President Obama. After the first presidential debate, it was just 53 percent.

There we go. There's the magic number right there so you can all see it -- 61 percent before the first debate. Afterwards, 53 percent. It really seemed to change the perception of this race.

So does it change the expectation game, Ana, going into the second debate?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it has changed the expectation debate. I think the expectations on President Obama are not as high as they were in the first debate. The first debate, the question asked of many people was, who do you expect to win the debate, and it was overwhelmingly President Obama.

I think he's got an advantage in that now. People just expect him, you know, he shows up and smiles and speaks up every now and then, he's done better than he did in the first debate.

That being said, I think what we've seen, John, is, you know, little bumps here and there, that then dissipate. There was the post- Democrat convention bump that lasted for a week or two. There's now this post-presidential debate bump.

Now, the second debate is so high stakes because it will go from being a one-shot thing, to being a narrative. And I think Mitt Romney understands it's part of him continuing the momentum, and President Obama understands it really is about him surviving to live to fight another day. And, you know, this race we're going to see very, very close.

BERMAN: All right, Ana. You say maybe the expectation is not as high for President Obama. It's interesting, because some liberals are still setting the bar quite high for the president.

Andrew Sullivan writing again in "The Daily Beast" that he's been in full-scale panic mode. Now, he writes, "What the president has to do now is so nail these next two debates, so obliterate Romney in both, that he can claw his way back to victory. But if he manages just evenly-matched debates, let alone another Romney win, he's a goner."

So, Richard Socarides, our resident Democrat here, if the president --

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER BILL CLINTON SENIOR ADVISER: Resident liberal.

BERMAN: If the president doesn't win this debate outright he is, in fact, a goner like Andrew Sullivan says?

SOCARIDES: Well, I don't think he should do what Andrew Sullivan suggests. Because I don't think we want this vision of like a clawing president is not exactly what you want.

But he's got, you know, he's got a big challenge. He's got to be more aggressive. And most importantly, he's got to be clear about what the two competing visions are for the country. There are two. This is an election of stark contrasts. There are two very different competing visions for the country and he has to really lay that out.

BERMAN: But Ana said it, Andrew Sullivan said it, they said if the president doesn't win this next debate he's a goner. Do you agree with that?

SOCARIDES: Well, I think that a lot of the first debate showed how much of an impact these things can have. I think that you'll see a very different Barack Obama tomorrow night. I think he will be much more aggressive. I think he will be on his game. I think clearly he said that he was having an off night. I don't think he'll have another off night.

BERMAN: Can I get an answer now? Is he a goner if he doesn't win this debate?

SOCARIDES: I don't think he's a goner because I think that he has an advantage. It's very hard to bet an incumbent president. So I think while it is very close, if you ask me today who would win, I would say he probably will win. And I don't think that the debates will really determine -- will change that.

I mean I think that no matter what happens in these next two debates, the odds are in his favor, because it's very hard to beat an incumbent president, and because there are some, you know, some quirks to the Electoral College that favor him.

BERMAN: One of the most interesting things that I think with these debates is what happened immediately after them. How people frame them, how they're described in the media, on TV. How the campaigns use them. The Romney team has put out a new ad based on the debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. I want to play a little bit of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We can't keep spending and borrowing like this. We can't keep spending money we don't have. Did they come in and inherit a very tough situation? Absolutely. But we're going in the wrong direction. Look at where we are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Ana, is the Biden laugh now part of this narrative?

NAVARRO: I think so, John. You know, I think there's something very interesting that has happened here. Look, that debate, the vice presidential debate, really there was no great memorable line. There was no unforgettable gaffes.

The only memorable thing about it was the sarcastic, continuous interruptions, laughs, smirks by Joe Biden. And as the days have gone by, it's almost, you know, permeated the narrative that much more. It's grown, not gotten less, in the last few days. It's what comedians have used for fodder. So, yes, I think it is a big issue, and it is bothering a lot of people.

BERMAN: One of the things that we also hear from both of these debates, Ana, to be fair, is the lack of specifics from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on their tax plan. They just haven't filled in the blanks there, Democrats hammering them every day to fill in the blanks. At what point do you think that becomes a political liability?

NAVARRO: I'm not sure that it will become a political liability. I think that you know --

BERMAN: Don't you want more specifics? As a human being, not just a Republican and a Democrat, don't you want more specifics in that tax plan?

NAVARRO: John, I'm a woman. I want all sorts of specifics. You know, everything I want everything written in stone, let's just understand that. But, but you know, look, we are three weeks away from the election. I can tell you that in battleground state Florida, where I'm sitting this morning, almost 350,000 people have already voted absentee. Early voting begins.

You know, people are voting already. It's not -- it's hard for something to become a new liability now that's been out on the table for awhile. What can become a liability, for example, is new developments and new facts coming out on the Benghazi investigation.

But this thing with the Mitt Romney tax plan, he's already said, look, I'm not going to give you specifics because I'm going to work with Congress if elected like I did in Massachusetts where I did it in a bipartisan way. And that's what you're going to get from him. Take it or leave it.

BERMAN: He is delivering on his promise of no specifics. That's for sure.

Richard, let me give you the last word, in 10 seconds or less, what's the headline on Wednesday morning?

SOCARIDES: Obama is back in the lead.

BERMAN: You have your fingers crossed when you're saying that, I believe.

All right, Richard Socarides, Ana Navarro in Miami -- always great to se you. Calling for something of a tax prenup in this campaign, we'll see if that ever materializes. Thanks a lot, Ana.

And, of course, CNN's Candy Crowley moderates the presidential town hall debate tomorrow live, and our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you very much. Pretrial hearings begin today at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, The alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and four of his accused co- conspirators. Lawyers will argue whether the public has a right to know how the men were treated at the CIA so-called black detention sites, and if the U.S. Constitution applies at Guantanamo.

The families of 9/11 victims can watch the proceedings at four military installations on the East Coast.

And Pentagon officials want to know exactly why a U.S. nuclear submarine had a collision at sea with another Navy vessel. This happened off the East Coast during a weekend training exercise. No injuries were reported when the submarine Montpelier collided with the cruiser San Jacinto. No word yet from the Navy as to the extent of the damage there.

BERMAN: The Senate plans to hold an investigation into the attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Whether there was enough security was a topic yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley. An adviser to Mitt Romney says the White House has not provided a consistent answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILLESPIE: Vice President Biden directly contradicted the sworn testimony of the State Department in the debates the other night.

GIBBS: The administration is responsible. Countries that provide us consulates and missions are responsible also for keeping us -- keeping those people safe and secure. And an investigation is what the president and the secretary of state have asked for so that we can understand directly all the things that happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: The House held a hearing, of course, on that attack last week.

SAMBOLIN: A Maryland teenager recovering from a flesh-eating bacteria has been all smiles over the past few days. Take a look at her -- 16- year-old Alexis Hanford went to her homecoming dance Saturday night. A day earlier, she was crowned homecoming princess.

So, about two months ago, Hanford cut her leg after launching herself of a rope swing and into a lake. She's endured 18 surgeries to get rid of the infection.

Nice to see her smiling, right?

BERMAN: Good for her.

All right. This coming up is some of the best video you will see today or any day ever for your entire life. Daredevil Felix and his jump to Earth from the edge of outer space. This is what he saw as he was plummeting a billion and a half miles to the ground. We'll show you more. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: It's time for a very special guest. Soledad O'Brien joins us with a look ahead with what's on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Very special guest.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Ahead on "STARTING POINT": the second debate. This one in Long Island, or as I like to say, Strong Island. President Obama, Mitt Romney getting ready for that debate. New polls show the race is getting even tighter.

This morning, we're going to talk to Mark McKinnon from the No Labels campaign, also with "The Daily Beast."

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be my guest. Delaware Governor Jack Markell will join us.

Also this morning, we're talking about getting treatment. The Pakistani teenager, the activist, who was shot in the head by the Taliban, now heads to England for her medical care. We got a live report straight ahead from Islamabad.

And the presidential election means gold, comedy gold. "Saturday Night Live" of course. Late night laughs, as well. Take a look at how it works, what makes a successful political comedy.

All that and much more ahead this morning and start right at 7:00.

BERMAN: And thanks so much.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

BERMAN: Zoraida? SAMBOLIN: Fearless Felix Baumgartner living up to his name. The Austrian daredevil going where no skydiver has gone before. Shattering records with a death-defying jump from 24 miles up, falling faster than the speed of sound.

CNN's Brian Todd watched it all unfold.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a heart-pounding hop into the stratosphere, Felix Baumgartner makes history. He jumps from 128,000 feet above the earth, 24 miles up, higher than anyone before him.

During freefall, he spun for a few harrowing moments but stabilized quickly.

BAUMGARTNER: Started spinning so violently. Spun me around in all different directions, you know? And I was always trying to find out how to stop this. I was putting one arm out. It didn't work. And I was putting another arm out.

But you're always late, because at that speed, when you travel at that speed, with that suit pressurized you don't feel the air at all.

TODD: In those first seconds, he broke another record. No one had ever gone through the sound barrier outside a vehicle. Baumgartner reached a top speed of more than 700 miles an hour. Well past the speed of sound.

Freefall lasted 4 minutes 19 seconds before his parachute opened. That's short of the record for the longest free-fall in history. But after he safely touched down, the man known as Fearless Felix was hailed as an aerospace pioneer.

BAUMGARTNER,: It's hard to realize what happened right now, because there are still so many emotions, you know? I had tears in my eyes when I was coming back a couple of times, because you're sitting there and you thought about that moment so many times, you know, how it would feel and how would it look like and this is way bigger than I anticipated.

TODD: This mission had been five years in the planning. In Baumgartner's ear during the ascent, Col. Joe Kitinger, the man whose record Baumgartner broke. Kitinger had jumped from 102,000 feet in 1960. I interviewed Baumgartner and Kitinger together earlier this year.

Are you jealous of Felix that he's going to break your record?

COL. JOE KITTINGER, PREVIOUS RECORD HOLDER: Oh, no. I'm delighted. I'm delighted he's going to do it. He's advancing science, and he'll do a great job.

TODD: Mission leaders and space officials hope this jump will show them if astronauts, space tourists, or high altitude pilots can survive for any extended period outside a vehicle if there's a malfunction. If it held up as expected, Baumgartner's high-pressure suit could be the next generation suit for future missions.

(on-camera) What will Felix Baumgartner do next? He told me that after this jump, he wants to pursue an occupation as a helicopter rescue pilot. Might be a bit of a letdown.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: That's an understatement. All right. Later on "STARTING POINT", world renowned high wire artist Nik Wallenda joins Soledad to talk about Felix Baumgartner's death-defying feat.

And he's accused of abandoning ship. Now, the captain of the doomed Italian cruise ship is getting his day in court. We're going to have a live report on that hearing coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SAMBOLIN: We have breaking news to tell you about at this hour. These are live pictures. It is a three-alarm fire in New York, specifically, the Fordham section of the Bronx. We understand that this fire broke out on East 184th Street. That's near Jerome Avenue right after 6:00 a.m. You can see there that 2 1/2 story building is engulfed in flames.

They're calling it a private house. The firefighters are now worried that that fire is going to spread across. If we take a wider picture of that which we were on earlier, you can see that the homes there are near each other. And, although, there's a lot of fire -- a lot of smoke that we're seeing, they are concerned that that could potentially jump to one of the building that is next door.

BERMAN: This video from our affiliate, WABC. And when firefighters arrived, it was a two-alarm fire but quickly jumped up to a three- alarm fire. Again, that's why they're so worried that this could spread throughout the block and the area. We will be watching that as the morning continues.

SAMBOLIN: You know, we have no word of any injuries, but it's very early here. So, we'll continue to monitor the situation for you.

BERMAN: All right. Fifty-one minutes after the hour right now.

The captain of the Costa Concordia, Italy's doomed cruise ship, is in court right now in a pretrial hearing. The giant ship capsized off the Tuscany Coast in January killing 32 people. The captain is charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. Survivors of the disaster are also in court this morning.

Our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, joins us now live from Rome. And Ben, experts are expected to reveal the black box data in court today. Isn't that right?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's correct. that's one of the key pieces of evidence they're looking at, because unlike a lot of the other evidence that they've got, which is really sort of he said, she said, this will provide hard data on exactly what happened on the night of January 11th, 2012, when this cruise ship, which is the size of three football fields, carrying more than 4,000 crew members and passengers hit a rock just off the Italian coast.

BERMAN: And two Americans, a husband and a wife from Minnesota, we remember their pictures so well, they were victims in this disaster. Will their relatives be attending the hearing?

WEDEMAN: As far as we know today, they are not there. Their relatives are not there. We understand that there are only about 10 survivors in this courtroom.

But there are American lawyers representing American nationals as well as other nationals who are interested not only in what happens in this evidentiary hearing today, but they're interested in taking carnival cruises, which is the parent company of the Italian company that ran this cruise ship, taking them to court.

And so they're very interested in hearing what comes out of these hearings this week.

BERMAN: There is a lot of legal activity surrounding this mishap and one that may surprise a lot of Americans here. The former captain has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination.

WEDEMAN: Yes, that's the 52-year-old Captain Francesco Schettino who, in fact, seems to be taking the attitude that the best defense is a good offense. This is a man who claimed that he tripped and fell into one of the lifeboats. And that explains why he wasn't the last man off the ship when this disaster occurred.

He is taking Costa Crociere, the Costa cruise company which owns this ship, to court for wrongful dismissal. His claim is that if it weren't for the actions he took that fateful night, even more people would be dead as a result of this disaster.

BERMAN: All right. Ben Wedeman live in Rome this morning. The hearings beginning today in that disaster off the coast of Italy. Thank you very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is 53 minutes past the hour, 54 minutes exactly. So, let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): President Obama, Mitt Romney, square off tomorrow night in the second of three presidential debates. The president is preparing in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the GOP nominee is in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Two new polls this morning show the race is a dead heat. CNN's Candy Crowley moderates the debate at Hofstra University on Long Island, and our live coverage kicks off at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

BERMAN (voice-over): The 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban is due to arrive in Britain in the next few hours. Malala Yousufzai is being flown to a hospital in Birmingham, England. The Taliban tried to kill her because she publicly defied them by insisting that Pakistani girls have a right to education.

SAMBOLIN: The Nobel Committee in Sweden is getting ready to announce this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics. That is happening in a matter of minutes. The big announcement is coming up at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time, and we are going to tell you who the winner is.

BERMAN: So stay by your television. Meanwhile, on the road to the World Series. The Detroit Tigers, they're halfway home. The Tigers made it two straight over the Yankees in the Bronx in the American League Championship Series.

SAMBOLIN: Go Yankees!

BERMAN: So they won 3-0 yesterday in a shutout game three tomorrow in Detroit. Justin Verlander on the mound for the Tigers. In the NLCS, the St. Louis cardinals drew first blood. The Cards jumped out to a six-nothing lead, and then, they held off the Giants for a 6-4 win. Game two tonight in San Francisco. Really, no team hotter than the Cardinals right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And today's "Best Advice" coming up after this quick break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN (on-camera): It is 58 minutes after the hour.

SAMBOLIN: And we wrap it up as always with "Best Advice." Here's Christine.

ROMANS: And this Monday morning, our "Best Advice" comes from world renowned economist, Alice Rivlin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALICE RIVLIN, ECONOMIST/EXPERT ON BUDGET: The best advice I ever got was from Warren Buffett who said I've often been sorry that I didn't speak up. I've never been sorry when I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Isn't that cool?

SAMBOLIN: It is.

BLITZER: Pretty much always have to listen to Warren Buffett. ROMANS: I know. And Alice Rivlin. You know, she's actually been talking a lot about how Congress could get its act together and try to fix the fiscal cliff. So, you know, she's got -- she says she sees progress. She thinks she knows that -- she says they know they've got to fix it. That's a good advice.

BERMAN: All right. That is all for EARLY START this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.