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Obama And Romney Trade One Liners; CDC: Deadly Fungus Found In Steroids; Sandusky Appeals Conviction; Legal Victory For Texas Cheerleaders; Clean Sweep!; Hillary Clinton: No 2016 Presidential Bid; Lance Armstrong Expected To Speak; One-on-One with Vivica A. Fox; "Udder" Courtship

Aired October 19, 2012 - 06:00   ET



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I went shopping at some stores in midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in midtown.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's nice to finally relax and to wear what Ann and I wear around the house.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Comic relief on the campaign trail. President Obama and Mitt Romney roasting each others and, yes, themselves.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Holy spirit. Cheerleaders battle to keep Bible verses on their banners.

BERMAN: And celebration in Motown and across the country. The Tigers sweep their way into the World Series, but who will they play?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us this morning. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east. Up first, President Obama and Mitt Romney going for jokes instead of each other's jugular for one night, at least.

Two days after a bruising debate, the candidates were all smiles last night at the Al Smith Charity dinner in New York. There were plenty of punch lines, most of them lighthearted, some a little more pointed.


ROMNEY: As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white tie and finery, you have to wonder what he's thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute. (LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: After my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity, because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.



SAMBOLIN: CNN political director, Mark Preston, is live from Washington. And Mark, I had watched this now, I don't know, a dozen times, and I'm still laughing. How was the atmosphere at the dinner?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it was pretty good. You know, Zoraida, given the fact that this has been a very intense campaign, and you know, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama clearly don't really like each other.

Personally and they certainly don't like each other's policies. You know, they took this opportunity, not only to take pokes at themselves. They took pokes at each other, but they also wrapped up political messages in their jokes. Let's take a quick listen.


OBAMA: Of course, the economy is on everybody's minds. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since I took office. I don't have a joke here. I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody. That the unemployment is at the lowest it's been since I took office.

ROMNEY: And don't be surprised if the president mentions this evening the monthly jobs report, where there was a slight improvement in the numbers. He knows how to seize the moment, this president. And already has a compelling new campaign slogan. You're better off now than you were four weeks ago.


PRESTON: There you go. There's Mitt Romney and Barack Obama last night at the Al Smith dinner trading some laughs, wrapped up in some political humor there. But they're back on the campaign trail, Zoraida, and they have a big debate on Monday night.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, and we're going to stick to comedy here. President Obama stopped by "The Daily Show" earlier in the night. But this was not all about laughs.

PRESTON: No, it's not all about laughs. You know, Jon Stewart certainly asks some very difficult questions during his interviews. And he has a demographic that's very appealing to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, young voters.

And last night, President Obama had to answer a very tough question about the controversy that is swirling around his administration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I would say even you would admit it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as us all being on the same page.

OBAMA: Well, here's what I'll say.


OBAMA: If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal.


OBAMA: And we're going to fix it.


OBAMA: And all -- all of it.

STEWART: All of it.

OBAMA: And what happens during the course of a presidency is that, you know, the government is a big operation. At any given time something screws up and you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it.


PRESTON: And there you have President Obama last night with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" speaking about the Benghazi situation -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And getting back to the campaign. New overnight here, "Orlando Sentinel" is endorsing Mitt Romney. That's a switch because back in 2008, the paper supported President Obama or Obama at the time over McCain. Why do you think the change of heart here?

PRESTON: Well, the editorial page tells us the editors of the editorial page tell us, Zoraida, that, in fact, it all comes down to the economy and who would be the best person to lead it.

Let's just put this in perspective. Orlando right in the middle of Florida, a battleground state, but it's in the middle of Tampa and heads over to the west coast, over to Daytona Beach.

Let's take a quick look at what the "Orlando Sentinel" said about why they're choosing Mitt Romney. Romney has a strong record of leadership to run on. He built a successful business. He rescued the 2002 Winter Olympics.

As governor of Massachusetts he worked with a Democrat dominated legislature to close a $3 billion budget deficit and passed the health plan that became a national model. This is Romney's time to lead. Again, the "Orlando Sentinel" endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Mark Preston live from Washington. Thank you.

And joining us in the next half hour, Richard Socarides, former senior adviser to President Clinton and CNN contributor Eric Erickson, editor in chief of

It is three minutes past the hour. The gloves come off again this Monday night when Mitt Romney and the president tangle in the third. This is the final presidential debate. CNN's live coverage from Boca Raton, Florida, begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: Federal officials now saying a batch of steroids was definitely tainted with a deadly fungus. This is the first official confirmation linking the back pain shot with a deadly meningitis outbreak. This has left 20 people dead, infected more than 250 people in 16 states. The FDA is now testing two more batches of this drug.

SAMBOLIN: Lawyers for former Penn State Football Coach Jerry Sandusky want their client's child sex abuse conviction thrown out. They have now filed an appeal arguing they weren't given enough time to prepare for that case.

BERMAN: A big legal victory for a Texas high school cheerleading group. A judge temporarily ruled they can continue to carry banners that display Christian Bible verses at football games.

The judge set a trial date for next June to settle this dispute. The local school district banned the banners after receiving a complaint, but the cheerleaders sued claiming their free speech rights were violated.

Coming up this morning on "STARTING POINT," Soledad O'Brien will speak to one of the cheerleaders, her mother and an attorney.

SAMBOLIN: And the Detroit Tigers are World Series bound. The Tigers finished off the Yankees in four straight to take the American League pennant. They slugged four home runs in the clinching 8-1 victory. Detroit's DH Delman Young was named series MVP. The Tigers last played in the series in 2006, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games.

BERMAN: Will the Cardinals be back? This year's World Series could be a rematch of 2006. The Cardinals now have a commanding 3-1 lead in the NLCS. They won game four last night pushing the San Francisco Giants right to the brink. The Cards can punch their ticket to the series with a win tonight in game five.

SAMBOLIN: What will happen?

BERMAN: I had the cards look good. It is hard to imagine, maybe even hard to believe, but Hillary Clinton says she's done with politics so she says. Find out exactly what she means coming up.


BERMAN: Hillary Clinton has been a leading figure in national and international politics for two decades. But as her tenure as Secretary of State winds down, what does she plan to do in the future?

Many have wondered if she'll run for president again in the 2016 election. Her answer, now, she says, I am not running. CNN foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott is in Washington with more on Clinton's interview with "Marie Claire" magazine.

Good morning, Elise. So was this a definitive there is not any way, no way, no how, not ever running for president, and why does she say she's quitting if she is in fact saying?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, she wouldn't be the first politician, John, to say that she's not running and then run. But Secretary Clinton, you know, she's tired, John. She's been on the road.

You know, she's been in politics first as First Lady, then as Senator, now Secretary of State, at a frantic pace, traveling around the world. It's not the first time she's said this.

But in a recent interview with "Marie Claire" magazine said I've been on this high wire of national and international politics and leadership for 20 years. It's been an absolutely extraordinary personal honor and experience. But I really just want to have my own time back.

I want to just be my own person. I'm looking forward to that. And, John, she is tired. I can detest to traveling with her for the past three and a half years, it's really a frantic pace, never really letting go.

She tires all of us with her. And you know, Bill Clinton, her husband, former president, has been asked about this. Even he says he doesn't really know what she wants to do, but certainly she needs a break, and needs to kind of think about what she wants to do next.

BERMAN: Elise, as you said, you've traveled with her for thousands and thousands of miles over three years. You have such a remarkable perspective on this person now. What do you think she'll do next?

LABOTT: Well, I think right now, you know, she really wants to just take a break, take some rest, and spend some time with her family. But I also think the issues of women's rights and children's rights, and dealing with poverty.

Those are issues that are really important to her, and issues that she's worked on, not just throughout her First Lady and Senator term but as Secretary of State, really made those issues at the forefront. So I think she's going to do something like that.

But I also do think, you know, after maybe 2013 when her supporters are kind of coming out really full, and maybe she's had a chance to recharge, maybe she'll recover.

John, her aides have said to me, if she says that she would run, we'll drop everything and support her. So I think right now she really believes that she might not run, but I think that, I don't think we've seen the end of this question.

BERMAN: Yes, that's the answer for today, but today only lasts for another 24 hours. Elise, you were also been on the cutting edge of coverage of the attacks in Benghazi and Libya. Today Reuters and "The New York Times" have published some interviews with a militia commander who is thought to somehow be connected to the attack. What does he say?

LABOTT: Well, his name is Ahmad abu Qatalla and he was believed to be a leader of the group of Ansar Al Sharia who was believed to be responsible for this attack. U.S. and Libyan authorities say they're looking for him.

But he was in plain sight kind of sitting in a cafe, doing these interviews. He says he was not, in fact, the ringleader. He was there. And he says, interestingly, that this did stem from the protests that the administration claimed were happening outside the consulate the night of the attack that were so, you know, hijacked as they say, by extremists.

The State Department, others have said that there were no protests, but he says this was in response to the Muslim video, the video decrying the Prophet Mohammed, and he's very into Sharia law and really wants an Islamic state and this is what he says the U.S. is trying to interfere in Libya.

And he says that, you know, he was going against the U.S. along with his compatriots and he, you know, was really taunting both the Libyans and the United States for not being able to track him down.

BERMAN: All right, Elise Labott live from Washington, thanks for joining us this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is 13 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again, you two. You know, a night of one-liners last night. The candidates wasting no time to get back on the campaign trail. The president is in Virginia this morning for a rally at George Mason University.

Romney is spending the day in New York prepping for Monday's third and final debate. Then, he heads to Daytona Beach, Florida, tonight for a rally. Now last night I talked about those one-liners.

It was all about the punch lines at the Al Smith charity dinner in New York. Both candidates getting big laughs at Vice President Biden's expense.


ROMNEY: I was actually hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along this evening because he'll laugh at anything.

OBAMA: First when people say Barack, you're not as young as you used to be. Where is that golden smile? Where is that pep in your step? And I say, settle down, Joe, I'm trying to run a cabinet meeting.


ROMANS: Biden will be campaigning for the president in Tampa, Florida, this morning.

Lance Armstrong expected to speak publicly for the first time since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency laid out mounds of evidence that he used performance enhancing drugs.

Armstrong was part of the Live Strong 15th anniversary event in Austin tonight. Even though he had stepped down as chairman of the charity he started.

Several huge sponsors have bailed on Armstrong this week, including Nike, but Nike says it will still continue to support "Live Strong."

A frightening scene in Portland, Maine. A store clerk, look at this, bolting over a wall, she's running for her life. The man chasing her is wearing a mask. He's holding a gun in his right hand.

This incident caught on the store's surveillance system. Fortunately she was not hurt, right. But police are still searching for the gunman. Now, consumers with credit problems often have trouble getting a loan when they want to buy a car.

Even if they get a loan, dealers usually require a larger down payment. That's where a device called pastime comes in. This is something that's installed like a car alarm. It acts like a bedroom alarm clock.

PassTime is a reminder. It emits a series of beeps, tells the buyer that a car payment is past due. It helps both dealers and buyers.


ISIS KEARNEY, AUTO DEALER: Some of your smaller dealers, they require more down. I'm able to do it with a little bit less and work with people. First-time buyers, or people that have filed bankruptcy, I can do all of them.


ROMANS: But -- for those extra late with their car payments, PassTime emits a different signal, indicating that the car has been automatically shut down. It's sitting there, and ready for repossession.

BERMAN: I can imagine if it would give you the money to pay for the car, it would be useful.

SAMBOLIN: Boy, is that a bizarre --

ROMANS: Well, you know, auto repossessions have been up since the financial crisis. A lot of people can't get a car. Super low interest rates, people can't -- you know if you've got bad credit you can't get the car.

SAMBOLIN: And somebody found a way to capitalize.

ROMANS: Uh-huh.

BERMAN: All right. Sixteen minutes after the hour. Friday is get away day for a lot of people. But the weather might upset some of those plans.

Rob Marciano, give us the skinny here.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I got a storm system for a good third of the country, guys. It's going to cause some problems for travel. The Northeast, the big cities, Philly, New York, Boston, D.C., Chicago, and Detroit, as well. It's all connected to this one system that's kind of spiraling and lumbering across the Great Lakes.

So, it's a slow mover. There will be rain and showers from time to time. Some of it heavy at times across parts of the Northeast. So, bring along the umbrella. Not terribly cool behind this front. Temps in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

All right. As we mentioned, let's talk about the winter forecast which was unveiled by NOAA late yesterday. Now, we don't have an El Nino or a La Nina this year so that makes it exceedingly difficult to really pinpoint and have some confidence.

But for temperature anomalies, what we expect are temperatures to be basically above normal across the inner mountain west and four corners and much of the western half of the country, and below normal across the Florida Peninsula. Eastern half on both coasts maybe equal chances of seeing either one of those.

Precipitation, both rain and snow, below normal across parts of the Northwest, the western Great Lakes, possibly above normal across the Southeast, and equal chances of being above or below normal across the Northeast.

So -- I'm hearing breaking news. I'm hearing in Central Park right now, actually, squirrels are gathering nuts feverishly. So throw all this out the window.

BERMAN: Thank you for that news, Rob Marciano, bringing us the latest from the squirrels in Central Park.

MARCIANO: Go get them.

SAMBOLIN: All right, so you know how they say that money can't buy you love, right? But it can buy you some sweet revenge. That's 22- year-old Sandeep Singh. The Cape Cod man just claimed his $30.5 million share of Tuesday's mega millions jackpot, a few days after his girlfriend dumped him.


SANDEEP SINGH, MEGA MILLIONS WINNER: She broke up with me but right now I'm not really worried about it. I was heartbroken at first. But now, I'm getting over it.


SAMBOLIN: I bet you are. Singh had been working two jobs to pay the bills. So, what does he plan to do with all the money? He's going to buy his family a house and he's going to go back to college. Congratulations. A lot of women are going to be looking you up.

BERMAN: And there's one lady having second thoughts right now.

Coming up, new rules for your 401(k). How they can help you save even more money for your retirement.


BERMAN: Minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are trading slightly lower and markets did close lower yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: The tech sector took a hit yesterday after some surprising news from Google. What's going on?

ROMANS: Google's earnings were released, partially released four hours early. Some sort of man-made mistake meant that unfinished earnings release was filed. Even in the top of it, it said "pending Larry quote". Meaning it left a space for where they were going to put a quote in from the CEO. That was the big news.

The bigger news for shareholders was that it missed market expectations. So the stock dropped 8 percent. It was a chaotic afternoon for Google shareholders quite frankly, because they had to halt the stock. All this drama what happened. In the end, it closed with $695 a share.

Tech earnings have been coming in on the street a little light. So that's one of the reasons why tech stocks have had some trouble.

IRS yesterday releasing something that's really important for anybody who's saving in their 401(k). They're raising the amount of money you that you can sock into your 401(k) tax free every year. This is pretty interesting. It's now $17,500. They've raised it the last three years in a row.

And they're also raising the limit on how much someone can give you tax free in case you have these people in your life who are giving you things, money gifts.

SAMBOLIN: Like $14,000.

ROMANS: So now it's $14,000 you can get for -- without having to pay income tax on. So that's a limit there.

And then, senior money. Goldman Sachs telling us a little bit about this guy Greg Smith who is coming out with a book where he is going to bash the company, we suspect. Goldman Sachs hitting back.

This is what they released in sort of a draft of their internal investigation about Greg Smith, the guy who famously quit the bank in "The New York Times." Greg Smith, according to an e-mail that the company's released, or an e-mail written by one of his superiors, Greg Smith, off the charts unrealistic thinks that he should trade at multiples.

We told him there's very little tolerance for actions like that and he needs to tone it down. They say that Greg Smith had asked for his pay to be doubled and be made a managing director and he was turned down. So they're trying to paint him as the disgruntled former employee. You're going to be hearing a whole lot more about Greg Smith in the days ahead because he wrote a book called "Why I Left Goldman Sachs" and you all remember that famous "New York Times" piece that was just scathing about the bank.

SAMBOLIN: I bet he's got a lot of copies of e-mails as well.

BERMAN: What's the one thing you need to know about your money.

ROMANS: One thing you need to know about your money, mortgage rates still falling. I feel like a broken record. But, guys, this is really important. Fifteen-year fixed rate, new record low, 2.66 percent; 30-year fixed, 3.37.

SAMBOLIN: Mindboggling.

ROMANS: Just above the record low set last week. If you -- some people still say I'm going to fix this, I haven't had time to look at it. And I say, make the time. You're giving yourself a raise if you can refinance at these rates. You are giving yourself a raise.

So it -- it pays -- it pays to do it. Another friend told me it was like taking out a part-time job. She has two mortgages, a rental property they couldn't sell and then the house that she was living in. She said it was like a part-time job and finally did both of them and it freed up an awful lot of money.

BERMAN: Christine Romans. Not just record lows, but epic lows.

ROMANS: Epic lows.

BERMAN: Thank you very much.

SAMBOLIN: And next on EARLY START, hackers overseas target major U.S. banks. Is your money safe? Is it an act of cyber war?

And folks if you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us any time on your desk top or mobile phone. Just go to



ROMNEY: In the spirit of "Sesame Street", the president's remarks tonight are brought to you by the letter "O" and the number 16 trillion.


OBAMA: The employment rate is at its lowest level since I took office. I don't have a joke here. I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody.


SAMBOLIN: Last night, it was all about the laughs. The candidates put the campaign aside in the name of comedy. But it's a different story this morning.

BERMAN: Rumblings of war. North Korea threatening a merciless military strike against its neighbor over a single American dollar. We'll explain.

SAMBOLIN: And my one-on-one interview with the stunning actress Vivica A. Fox. She's talking about her new show that should have moms quaking in their mom jeans. Very funny. They are pranking mothers.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Nice to have you with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. I'm looking forward to that.

It is 29 minutes after the hour right now.

But, first, we're talking about politics now, because they've traded attacks on the campaign trail for months, but for one night only, the candidates for president traded jokes, instead. President Obama and Mitt Romney smiling and shaking hands, and patting backs at the Alfred E. Smith Charity Dinner here in New York City. This is just two nights after they clashed in that fiery second debate.

The jabs were a lot more lighthearted and a lot funnier this time around.


ROMNEY: And don't be surprised if the president mentions this evening the monthly jobs report where there was a slight improvement in the numbers. He knows how to seize the moment, this president. And already has a compelling new campaign slogan -- you're better off now than you were four weeks ago.


OBAMA: The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since I took office. I don't have a joke here. I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody, that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it's been since I took office.



BERMAN: It is pretty much now a tradition for presidential rivals to attend the Alfred E. Smith Dinner to roast each other and themselves.

I want to talk about it now with CNN contributor Erick Erickson. He's the editor-in-chief of And Richard Socarides, Democratic analyst and former senior adviser to President Clinton.

I've been to a few of this Alfred E. Smith Dinners. It's like you're on a different planet. These guys are swinging at each other for days and then it's all like hugs and, hey, back patting and laughing and everything else.

What did you make of it last night?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: I think it's fair to say that they're putting that on, because this is a ready serious moment in this campaign. And while they can be funny because it makes them look good, and both of them were pretty funny, I thought, they're not that happy with each other right now.

BERMAN: Erick, you think it's worth it?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it is. I think people like to see the politicians can duke it out during the day and, you know, go do a worthwhile cause at night and poke fun, not just at each other, but they also poked fun at themselves.

BERMAN: And, Erick, it wasn't just the Alfred E. Smith Dinner that was made for comedy. President Obama went on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart wasn't just a comedian during this interview. He asked him tough questions and they had an interesting exchange on Libya. Let's listen.


OBAMA: We weren't confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed.


OBAMA: I wasn't confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened.

STEWART: I would say even you would admit it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as us all being on the same page.

OBAMA: Well, here's what I'll say.


OBAMA: If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal.


BERMAN: Now, the "it's not optimal line" did make some waves on Twitter overnight.

Erick, is that something that jumped out at you?

ERICKSON: Yes, it did. Interestingly enough, when the pool report came out, it didn't -- it lists that Jon Stewart had used the phrase first. So, I understand why the president did this.

The problem I think for the president is he first used the phrase bumps in the road a few weeks ago referring to this, and Jon Stewart was referring to the response not being optimal and the president to the deaths not being optimal. It may get some traction.

I actually think the Joe Biden remark from yesterday about the Republicans aiming bullets at people is probably a little more outrageous than the president, largely because Jon Stewart vetting the word, so to speak.

BERMAN: So, I guess my question, Eric, is there anything at this point that President Obama could say about Libya that wouldn't upset conservatives?

ERICKSON: You know, I don't know. I think they really botched the response over several weeks and I think anything that comes out now is going to prove their initial response was wrong. And why was it wrong to begin with?

We know now they knew within 24 hours what the facts on the ground were. It took them two weeks to get there. That's a problem.

BERMAN: All right. You brought up the bullets line from Joe Biden. I want to play that for Richard and get his response. This was Joe Biden on the campaign trail yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're not bad men, they're decent men, they're good fathers, they're good husbands. But I don't understand how they believe, and they do believe, Ryan has written a book called "The Young Guns" with two other fellas, members of the House -- no, these are the Republican leaders in the House. You had -- you had unfortunately the bullets are aimed at you.


BERMAN: So, Richard, the bullet's aimed at you. We live on the same planet here. We saw what Sarah Palin went through when she used target rhetoric in some of her ads on her website. Is there a double standard here? Should Joe Biden be held accountable for what he said?

SOCARIDES: Well, I think that people -- you know, there is Joe Biden, I don't know if there's a double standard but there's definitely a Joe Biden standard and people know that that's the way he talks. And he's very candid when he speaks, and this is the way he talks. So I don't think they're going to make a big deal of it.

I will say on Libya, though, that I think the administration has been pretty straightforward and very forthright. I thought it was a great interview Jon Stewart did with the president, a lot of news in there. And the president speaking very candidly about what he thinks the administration could have done better, what steps he's taking from the very beginning to make sure it doesn't happen again.

BERMAN: Erick, I want to show you a couple swing state polls that were very interesting that came out overnight from NBC/Marist/"The Wall Street Journal". We're talking about Wisconsin and Iowa, two key states here. First up, Iowa showing the president with an eight-point lead there. And some of this was taken before the second debate, actually before the second debate, some of it after. And also in Wisconsin, the president with a six-point lead there. Again splits from before and after the second debate.

Pretty sizable lead in pretty key swing states. Do you think they reflect reality?

ERICKSON: You know, I'm not sure they do. When you look at movement on the ground in other states and some of the other swing state polls the president and Mitt Romney are very close. Romney ahead in Florida. They're now tied roughly in Virginia, Ohio, and Romney possibly ahead in Pennsylvania, which I haven't considered a swing state.

So, you know, I'm always a little bit suspicious of collegiate polls, even though they come out with Romney ahead. I just -- I don't think "The Wall Street Journal" track record this year with a Marist poll has been that great.

But at the same time do I think the president's ahead in Wisconsin and Iowa? Yes, I absolutely think he's ahead there.

BERMAN: Sigh of relief for you, Richard?

SOCARIDES: Well, I think that after the second debate, Democrats are feeling a lot better, and the president has consistently had a small lead and we're hoping that lead widens.

BERMAN: They still see nervous on your face, though, I think, Richard.

SOCARIDES: We're feeling a lot better than we were this time last week.

BERMAN: All right. Richard Socarides, Democratic analyst, Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of -- always great to speak to you both.

The candidates square off again this Monday night in the third and final presidential debate. CNN's live coverage from Boca Raton, Florida, begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

SAMBOLIN: And just in to CNN, I am happy to report this, prognosis seems to be improving for Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai. The medical director where she is being treated in the U.K. says she is not out of the woods yet, but, is doing very well. He says she appears to be functioning well intellectually and has the motor skills to stand and she is writing coherently, as well. She is now being treated for signs of infection from her gunshot injuries inflicted by the Taliban.

The 15-year-old has been able to listen to her father on the phone. But, she is unable to speak yet.

Oh, my gosh this is fantastic news. And everybody's really interested in this. We have a lot of stories for you on, including a million dollar bounty now to find her attackers.

Six-thirty-six here in the East. Tensions are rising between North and South Korea. A coalition of nongovernment groups from South Korea is planning to drop anti-Pyongyang leaflets in North Korea on Monday. Some of them containing a single U.S. dollar.

If they do, the North is threatening to retaliate with a merciless military strike.

BERMAN: Hackers in Russia and Iran have hit major banks in the U.S. again this week. Capital One, BB&T and HSBC banks all reported cyber attacks that affected their Web sites. Computer security experts say it doesn't look like any money or customer information was stolen but, still, this is the fifth straight week of these attacks.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-seven minutes past the hour.

Striking beauty and a wicked sense of humor. I'm going to go one-on- one with Vivica Fox to talk about her new show "Prank My Mom." You won't believe how far this lady will go for a laugh.


BERMAN: It's Friday, which means a special visit from Soledad O'Brien who joins us now with a look what's coming up on "STARTING POINT".

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: A special? Good morning, how are you?

Ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT," President Obama and Mitt Romney were trading jokes, and also at the same time vying for your votes. The candidates showed of their funny bones at the annual Al Smith Charity dinner.

Also this morning, we'll get reaction from Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes, the former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland will join us, and former New York Governor George Pataki will be my guest.

His scathing resignation letter, remember that? It Goldman Sachs as morally bankrupt and much, much more. Well, there's a new investigation into former investment banker Greg Smith, and it shows there might be more to that story. We're going to hear this morning from the journalist who got an exclusive look into the investigation.

And cheering in God's name. It's really a conversation about free speech, versus church and state. With one Texas cheerleaders, they won the right to put those religious phrases on their banners. But it all goes to court in the summer and the question now is will the decision last? We're going to talk to the -- the cheerleader who brought that suit, her mom, and her attorney this morning. It's right at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: Big court decision. That should be interesting.


BERMAN: Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much.

Forty-two minutes past the hour. Hollywood film star and sultry sex symbol, Vivica Fox, is taking a break from the movies to focus on her new gig. She's a reality TV host.

Fox is the host of a brand-new lifetime series "Prank My Mom," where sneaky sons and daughters pull practical jokes on their poor mothers.

Yesterday, I sat down with fox to talk about why she took on this new project. She also revealed her life's regrets and her plans for the future.


SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about some of those hilarious pranks because I'm a mom. So I'm going to start with a shotgun wedding.


VIVICA A. FOX, ACTRESS: How many times have you told your son to choose a good girl? Well, apparently not enough, because he's being accused of knocking up a stripper who's obviously lying about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone have any objections as to why these two should not be wed in holy matrimony?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do. I don't approve of them getting married. I don't think that two people have to get married in order to raise a baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not having my daughter pregnant unmarried.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about a shotgun wedding as they call it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You better believe that it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guess what? You ain't the only one who got a shotgun.


SAMBOLIN: It is just incredible moments of unbelievable tension and very real. Do you ever feel bad for these moms?

FOX: We put mom's love to the test, for sure. And you know what? Sometimes it's good to just laugh at yourself.


FOX: Would you jump in front of a bus for your child? Well, these next moms did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I took those days off at work, because they're just like partying and raving and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They gave you the time off, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I ditched it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came back, they were going to fire me, so I said you got hit by a bus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just keep drinking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got hit by a bus.


FOX: A lot of the kids when I say they want to prank their mom because their moms are too serious, always control freaks and for once they just want to get them out of their element. And it works. And then, at the end, they're so relieved. They are so relieved. I'm just hoping don't nobody have a heart attack.

SAMBOLIN: So this is a reinvention of your career. Do you just love it?

FOX: Yes. I must say for me hosting has been something that is kind of fallen into my lap. A couple of years ago, I was not happy with Hollywood, to be very honest with you.

Hollywood at the time was just throwing me roles I didn't care for. I think that sometimes, they have a problem, especially with women, when they turn 40.

SAMBOLIN: Do you feel like you've made sacrifices in order to stay in Hollywood?

FOX: Have I sacrificed a lot? Yes. I would love to have had a family. I would love to have children. But I have a beautiful godson by the name of Christian.

Yes, I've sacrificed a lot, you know? But I don't feel that like it's -- it was part of it, because you do want to have it all. And, it's hard. It's absolutely difficult to have it all, to have the family, to have the career. It's tough. But I am happy.

SAMBOLIN: Is there anything that you really want to do that you haven't done yet?

FOX: I would like to direct in the future. To be totally behind the scenes. And to take a project and let it be my baby and watch it, you know, grow and walk, and then run, and to be sitting there in the movie theater and say directed by Vivica A. Fox. That would be cool.


SAMBOLIN: She is really cool. This "Prank My Mom," let me tell you --


SAMBOLIN: I have watched the clips on this. It is hysterical. At first, I thought there's just no way. But you get totally sucked into the moment, and these moms will do amazing things for their kids. You're sitting there thinking, how far would I go for my kid?

BERMAN: If your kid ever did this to you, prank you like this, what would you do?

SAMBOLIN: I would kill him! In this video, you will see some moms kind of react that way also. So, it's very funny, and she told me that on Lifetime, actually, they run this marathon session. So tomorrow -- today, Friday, on Lifetime, they run a marathon session so you, too, can watch it.

BERMAN: All right. That should be interesting. Forty-five minutes after the hour right now. We want to get you up to date on this morning's top stories.


BERMAN (voice-over): President Obama and Mitt Romney smiling and civilized last night at a charity dinner here in New York City. Expect that to end today. The president is in Virginia this morning for a rally at George Mason University. Mitt Romney heads to Daytona Beach, Florida tonight for a rally with his running mate, Paul Ryan.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): And it was all about the defense in the NFL's Thursday night football game. The San Francisco 49ers scored the game's only touchdown in a 13-6 win at home over the Seattle Seahawks. But the victory, the Niners gamed sole possession of first place in the NFC west.


BERMAN (on-camera): And the election could be decided down on the farm. Coming up, we're going to head to dairy country and what may be the biggest swing state there is, statistically speaking, in the entire country.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): I predict it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Less than three weeks to go and the presidential race is this close. So, both campaigns are going hard after voters in swing states, like Wisconsin. Rural Raisin County is one of the areas still very much in play.

CNN's Miguel Marquez, my friend, talked with some female farmers about what they want to hear from the candidates. He's live with cows in Waterford, Wisconsin this morning. Hey, Miguel.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are live with a lot of cows. And I can tell you, I'm with a bunch of women right now, and they are not happy with me because we're holding up their breakfast this morning. Wisconsin is in play. It hasn't gone Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984, but a lot of the election with the exception of 2008 have been extremely close.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): Here we are milking cows in Racine County, Wisconsin.

(on-camera) What else are we doing in a place that offers up such delicious dairy delicacies? This is a county and state in play in a place that hasn't voted for a Republican since Reagan in 1984.

(voice-over) The Rank Family has farmed here since Grover Cleveland was president. Marcia Ranke and Linda Nelson have run the family dairy for 16 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right underneath. Yes --

MARQUEZ: Twice a day, 3:00 a.m. and p.m., they milk their 80 cows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a first.

MARQUEZ: They want to expand, but it's pricey, and credit tight. Their biggest concern, government debt acting like an anchor on the economy.

(on-camera) either of you made up your mind about who you're going to vote for?

LINDA NELSON, RANKE FAMILY FARMS: I have a pretty good idea.


MARQUEZ: But still could change it?

NELSON: Could change it.

RANKE: Anything could change.

MARQUEZ: So, what is it they want out of the White House? NELSON: It's going to take someone that wants to strap on their big boy boots and really take charge and say look, we are in a world of hurt. We need change.

MARQUEZ: Voters here take elections seriously. Turnout is high, and most voters independent.

(on-camera) To give you an idea of just how swinging Wisconsin is, these counties voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. Those same counties voted Obama in 2008. There are more Bush-to-Obama swing counties in Wisconsin than any other state.

(voice-over) Even in the same family, votes often split.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am voting for Romney.

MARQUEZ (on-camera): You are voting for Romney? You think because of his business credentials?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He is a businessman first.

MARQUEZ: You made up your mind of who you're voting for?

MARGIE VAN BLAIRCOM, SLICE CUSTOM CAKES: No, I'm not -- I have no clue who I'm going to vote for. It kind of teeters depending.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Four years ago, Gloria Bark (ph), and her daughter, Margie, started their own bakery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're baking upside down starts (ph).

MARQUEZ: They struggled but the business grew, now in a bigger space and three new employees.

(on-camera) Are social issues or economic issues bigger for you?

BLAIRCOM: I have to go with economic just because of our country and everything like that, but social issues are important. It isn't anybody's right to tell a woman what they can or can't do with their body.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Carol Hoppe (ph) rents out most of her farmland and says she works harder than ever just to keep her head above water.

(on-camera) Do you have any sense of the campaign at this point?

CAROL HOPPE, VOTER: Oh, yes hot and heavy. In the mail, on the phone.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Five women, one battleground state. Both campaigns in overdrive, working for their votes in the final stretch.


MARQUEZ (on-camera): Now, we shot this thing two days ago what you just saw. And, the day that we shot this I want to introduce you to two new cows that Linda and Marcia -- these are two bulls that one of their cows had. This one is named Mitt, and this one, Barack. Neither Linda or Marcia would tell us who they're voting for, but they're equal opportunity dairy farmers -- John.

BERMAN: You're a natural. And you always have strapped on your big boy boots.


BERMAN: So, we're glad to have you. Miguel will be with us again next Tuesday. He'll be on the ground in Scott County, Iowa. You won't want to miss that.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, I can't wait to see that.

All right. Today's "Best Advice" coming up right after this quick break.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. We wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

BERMAN: Here's Christine.

ROMANS: All right. We asked publishing executive and one-time candidate for president, Steve Forbes, the best advice he ever received.


STEVE FORBES, CEO/FOUNDER, FORBES: I think the best advice was from my father who liked to say this life on earth is not a dress rehearsal, make the most of it.


ROMANS: And make the most money in it.


BERMAN: Of course. He did OK.

ROMANS: He made an awful lot of money, that's right. Steve Forbes, well-known for his views on taxes and making and keeping the money that you make.

BERMAN: Interesting. He did not push for the flat tax. Best advice did not include a flat tax -


ROMANS: I'm sure if we have him back, he'll spend a whole lot of time talking about the flat tax.

SAMBOLIN: I just like his advice. (LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Flat out, I just like his advice.

BERMAN: That is all for EARLY START. I'm John Berman. Have a great weekend.

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