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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland; Interview with Former New York Governor George Pataki; Hillary Clinton: No 2016 Presidential Bid; Wisconsin Swing Voters Profiled; Legal Victory for Texas Cheerleaders; "Hungry Girl To The Max"

Aired October 19, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, the lighter side. President Obama and Mitt Romney with a lot of humor last night..

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone, please take your seats, otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them.

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

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O'BRIEN: Those are very funny jokes. Well, good natured laughs going into Monday night's debate. I'm going to go out on the limb and say, it will not.

Also, will she or won't she? Growing speculation about Hillary Clinton's political future. The new interview addressing her potential 2016 White House run.

And cheering in God's name. A group of cheerleaders win the right to put religious phrases on their banners. Does it violate the separation of church and state? We're going to talk to one of those cheerleaders and her mom, coming up.

Also joining us this morning, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, former New York Governor George Pataki, and the "Hungry Girl" author Lisa Lillien is going to join us.

It's Friday, October 19th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Charles Blow is with us. He is a "New York Times" columnist.

You are saying you are from the Deep South.

CHARLES BLOW, NEW YORK TIMES: I am.

O'BRIEN: No accent, though.

BLOW: Well, my mom called. She's new here.

O'BRIEN: Richard Socarides is with us, as well. He is a writer for NewYorker.com. I'm struggling with the words today, aren't I? And former senior adviser to President Clinton, that would be Richard. And Will Cain is a columnist for TheBlaze.com. Nice to have you with us as well. Sometimes Richard takes your seat.

WILL CAIN, COLUMNIST, THEBLAZE.COM: I've heard.

O'BRIEN: Watch that. Keep an eye on him.

John Berman is sticking around from "EARLY START", to help us with our news.

Our STARTING POINT is all about the zingers that were traded last month after months of slinging some pretty vicious attacks on the campaign trail. There was a lot of levity last night between President Obama and Governor Romney, probably just for one night, though. The two candidates smiling, shaking hands at the Al Smith Charity Dinner. The jabs, light hearted and I thought pretty funny. The presidential debate was different just a couple of days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: As President Obama surveys the banquet room with everyone in white tie and finery, you have to wonder what he is 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. I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning, a former Democratic Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland. He's the national co-chair for the Obama campaign. And former New York Governor, George Pataki. We're going to start with Governor Strickland, if that's OK.

You know, it's funny to watch the shots from that dinner because even some of that, I thought, you guys, was a little bit tense. Maybe more than tense than, say, in 2008. Do you think it matters to voters? I mean, we watch every moment of it and we parse through all the looks and the handshake. Do you think voters really care at all about that?

FMR. GOV. TED STRICKLAND, (D), OHIO: Well, I thought it was a fun evening. Both Governor Romney and the President were funny, appropriately so, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. But I think these events do display something about the personalities of the individuals and certainly last night we saw two very funny men, I thought.

O'BRIEN: Let me take a look at some polls, a CNN/ORC poll that looks at likely voters in the state of Ohio, in your state. The President has a sliver of a lead, 51 percent to 47 percent. I say sliver because of course the margin of error is almost that lead. Why are you confident that your state's going to go for President Obama?

STRICKLAND: Well, because for several months now the President has maintained sometimes a slight but a consistent lead. Ohio seems to have pretty much made up its mind in this campaign. I don't know that it's over, it's not over until all the votes are counted.

O'BRIEN: It's 0.5 percent of a lead.

STRICKLAND: I'm sorry?

O'BRIEN: I said that's 0.5 percent of a lead there, so I don't - it sounds to me like you're overstating it when you say Ohio has made up its mind. I think that poll shows -

STRICKLAND: Yes, but there are very, very few undecideds. And I have yet to see a credible poll in several months that has Governor Romney in the lead. And I think that says something about the consistency of attitude that we have here in Ohio. I think Ohioans have pretty much up their minds about Governor Romney and the President and I'm feeling very confident that as we move into this 20 or so days, that the President's got a solid, steady lead and that we'll do well and that he'll emerge the victor.

And, you know, Soledad, the polls that came out yesterday, the President being up 6 in Wisconsin, 8 in Iowa - if the President wins Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa, this race is over. There is absolutely no way that Romney can win.

O'BRIEN: Right, which puts all the focus back on Ohio. And I said a 0.5 lead but I guess what I was pointing to was a 4 point lead, but with the margin of error is 3.5 points, so in theory you calculate it that.

Let's take a look at what "The Orlando Sentinel" wrote. They've endorsed Governor Romney as of course, as you point out, Florida - and you've pointed before when we've spoken - Florida hugely important in this race. They said this, and they endorsed Obama back in 2008:

"We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and the budget in the next four years. For that reason, though we endorsed him in 2008, we are recommending Romney in this race."

How damaging is that?

STRICKLAND: Well, I don't know if endorsements, newspaper endorsements, make much difference at all, quite frankly. That's certainly been my experience in my political career. There've been times when I've gotten all the endorsements, major endorsements, in my Congressional races and lost the race, and vice versa.

So I really think people aren't influenced very much by newspapers these days and I don't think they're influenced much at all by newspaper endorsements.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Governor, the early voting is so important in Ohio and there was such an edge for President Obama four years ago there. He still has an edge in Ohio but it isn't as great. The Republicans are making serious inroads there. Is that a concern to you and how much of an edge do you have to have going into Election Day?

STRICKLAND: Well, I really don't know that the Republicans are making major inroads. The President I think won four years ago about 51 to 47, something like that. I think we'll end up sort of in that area again this year, and I'll settle for that. But I see no evidence that the Republicans are making any significant gains in these last days. I just don't think it's there. The NBC poll last week, I believe it was, was 51 to 45. So it's fluctuated within that, but the President has been consistently in recent polls over 50 percent. That's what really counts. If you get 50, 51 percent, you're going to win the election.

O'BRIEN: Let me play a little chunk of what the President said to Jon Stewart yesterday. Jon Stewart asked him a question about Libya and I want to play that piece there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We weren't confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed, sure. I wasn't confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": I would say even you would admit that 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. If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He has been getting, the President that is, a lot of criticism for saying "optimal". Four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. What do you think of that?

STRICKLAND: Well, I think this whole issue is being politicized and I don't understand why. What do they think the President hopes to accomplish if he has done, as they say, he's misleading the people? I think the most obscene part of this whole scenario was the fact that while our embassy was still under attack, here was Governor Romney holding a press conference criticizing the President, while the attack was, apparently, still going on.

The father of the slain ambassador has asked that this issue not be politicized. And Governor Romney in that famous video where he talked about 47 percent of us not being very worthy also talked about the fact that if there was a foreign policy issue, that he would try to exploit it. I think he's doing that. He's doing exactly what he said he would do in that video, in my judgment. And I think it's unseemly.

Usually, when we are under attack or our country has been threatened in some way, we really come together and we unify. We don't divide. And I believe the Romney campaign is trying to divide Americans on this issue and I think, I repeat, I think it's unseemly. I don't know what they think the President is trying to accomplish.

O'BRIEN: But Governor Strickland, we're out of time. I was going to say we'll ask, we have Governor Pataki joining us this morning, so I want to thank you for being with us. We certainly appreciate your time.

Governor Pataki, it's nice to have you joining us as well. You heard a lot of what Governor Strickland just said. He said this, talking specifically about Libya, being politicized. He basically then shifted into a couple of different Democratic talking points, the 47 percent certainly, and also that Governor Romney was criticizing the attack before the attack, in his words, had even happened. So talk to me about that.

FMR. GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, (R) NEW YORK: You hit it right on the head. Governor Strickland just immediately went to Democratic talking points and that doesn't serve the American people well. President Obama, when he said it was not opitmal that we had four Americans slayed, that's a poor choice of words. But when you're in a campaign, if you're going to say every time you choose the wrong word, you're going to be destroyed for some reason, it's just not good for the country. Let's focus on what matters here.

There are two issues, in my mind. First of all, why was security pulled, two military teams pulled, in August of this year from Benghazi and Libya when the ambassador and others were saying they feared for their lives because we didn't have adequate security? That's point number one. Point number two is the President, in the debate, when Governor Romney said you did say - you were blaming it on the video, your administration, a week later, the President said in the Rose Garden the next day, I said it was a terrorist attack. And of course Candy Crowley weighed in and said yes he did. In fact, he did not.

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": But he didn't say that, though, right? He never said, "I said it was a 'terrorist attack'." Those are not the words that he said that he used. He said that these were "acts of terror".

(CROSSTALK)

PATAKI: No, no, no. Wait a second. I listened to Governor Strickland with the Democratic talking points for five minutes, I'd like to try to get a point -

O'BRIEN: Charles, let him finish. PATAKI: For over a week after the horrible attacks, this President's administration, the U.N. ambassador, the official spokesperson, Jay Carney, were out there saying they believed it was the video. And this was after the President understood and claimed that it was an act of terrorism. He never said that. And his administration - now, who told Secretary Rice to go on all the national talk shows and say it was the YouTube video? Did she just think that up? Who told Jay Carney at press conferences to say it was the YouTube video? That didn't come out of his own mind. That was the official position of the administration and I think it's unfortunate.

But what is more unfortunate not only the mistatement the President in the debate but on so many issues. Like when Governor Romney talked about the decline in natural gas on federal land, the decline of federal permits on president land - on federal land, President Obama looked right at the camera and the American people and said, "You're wrong, Governor Romney. Those facts are not right." In fact, they were right.

So I think -

O'BRIEN: John Berman was the fact-checker on that, so let me loop him in.

BERMAN: He said Governor Romney was right when he said that production fell 14 percent in 2010 and 2011. President Obama ws absolutely correct when he said that production under his administration is actually higher than what it was -

PATAKI: On federal lands?

BERMAN: Yes. Under the last four years of the Bush administration.

PATAKI: Natural gas is down 9 percent.

BERMAN: Oil, oil, that's oil. Oil is down. Combined, they're up.

PATAKI: Not down 9 percent?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Can I ask, now that we've got to here, I'd rather do this back and forth - you were a successful three-term governor here in New York and a moderate, I think. I think you governed as a moderate, you know, maybe a slightly right of center moderate. But do you think that Governor Romney would have been better served to run more as a moderate during the primaries? Now that we see him in the general election, you know, he's taking some more moderate positions.

PATAKI: You know, it's always - the candidate is doing something because of some brilliant political strategy as opposed to they believe what they're saying. I happen to think that Governor Romney has run a presidential campaign based on what happens to believe. And I think that the American people are now seeing, contrary to what they've heard from the administration forever, that he's not going to destroy the middle class, that he's not going to raise taxes on them, that he's not this some evil Gordon Gekko figure out there who doesn't care about the American people.

And I think that, as much as the issues, the fact that people are seeing Governor Romney as someone with a stature, the ideas, the positions, to help this country and particularly the middle class, move forward, is what has turned around this campaign.

SOCARIDES: Some of his positions, though, do seem to shift a little over time.

BLOW: That's an understatement.

(CROSSTALK)

PATAKI: During the course of the primaries to now, what has changed?

SOCARIDES: Certainly some of the emphasis shifts. I mean, he talked a lot about cutting taxes on the rich during the primaries and now that seems to have disappeared. He talked a lot about -

PATAKI: He didn't talk about cutting taxes on the rich. He talked about lowering the top rate, but even lowering the top rate less than Obama's own bipartisan commission had suggested. And it's always, oh, you're going cut the taxes on the rich. What the President wants to do is raise those taxes.

SOCARIDES: I think the emphasis is certainly different now. I mean, it may be a question of nuance, but certainly the emphasis is different now.

PATAKI: Sure, the emphasis always changes based on the issues that are in the forefront. I mean, Libya has come to the forefront since the primary.

O'BRIEN: Will, you wanted to jump in.

CAIN: I know we're talking about politics but the Libya issue still just sticking with me for this reason. There was an important question asked today, I think the most important question of the morning, and it was asked by Governor Strickland. What would the motivation have been for the Obama administration to continue with the line that they had, the U.N. ambassador came out and said it was due to the video. I just can't accept the politicization - hold on just one second, Governor, I'm talking - I can't accept this politicization argument over and over, because that very important question, which you just asked as well, why did you continue?

I don't care about the Rose Garden, Charles, I don't care about - this has not yet been answered. Why did we continue to hear that for two weeks? Why?

PATAKI: Right, why did we continue. I can't speak for the Obama administration, but let me give you just a thought on that. One of the cornerstones of the President's campaign speeches out there is al Qaeda is on the run and I killed Osama bin Laden. He's dropped that "al Qaeda is on the run" since Libya. And after that horrible attack that as Americans we all feel just dreadful about, the idea that al Qaeda is back, but not only back but strong enough to murder an American ambassador for the first time in 34 years, is something that didn't quite fit with the narrative of the administration, that al Qaeda was on the run.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I think that's -

SOCARIDES: But do you think, Governor, that we're not safer today than we were back when we had the original 9/11 attack?

PATAKI: Oh absolutely, we are safer today than we were then. I'm not so sure we're safer than we were in 2009.

SOCARIDES: So you think we're less safe since President Obama took office?

PATAKI: I don't have access to classified information.

SOCARIDES: So we don't know that, right?

PATAKI: But let me tell you something we do know, that detainees released from Guantanamo have been on the battlefield and killed American and NATO troops. We do know that al Qaeda is again resurgent in parts of the world like Tunisia and Libya and Egypt and places where they were not before. We do know that Syria now poses an enormous strategic threat to us and to our allies, and that because we are so far behind the curve that Islamist radicals are filling the void and fighting against Assad, we do know all that has happened and we do know Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon.

So are we safer than we were in 2009? I don't know. We are safer than 2001.

O'BRIEN: There's a couple of things we have to go circle back around on, because you mentioned the Rose Garden speech, and we've been talking about this lot so we have the transcripts very handy.

He said this, and this is what Candy Crowley during the debate confirmed. He said this: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of values," et cetera, et cetera.

PATAKI: That's exactly right, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So that is exactly, specifically -

PATAKI: No, no, the point Governor Romney was making was not that he didnt' condemn acts of terror, but that he did not say that the Libyan attack had been an act of terror, which he did not, and that for weeks for thereafter, as you were pointing out, the official line of the administration was that it was the YouTube video. Now that where did that come from? The Libyan government was telling us it was an act of terror. Our government was telling it's a YouTube video. Did you ever think the Libyan government would be more accurate than our government when it came to an attack, a fatal attack? BLOW: Are you suggesting that they made it up? I want to call it a logical conclusion of what you're saying. What are saying the White House did that was wrong?

PATAKI: I'm suggesting that they had a political narrative.

BLOW: But not that they made it up?

PATAKI: No, not that they made it up.

BLOW: Right, so this is intelligence, right?

PATAKI: No. Intelligence is virtually never 100 percent black or white. There are degrees of certainty. It appears as though in a relatively short period of time, intelligence believed with a high degree of belief, strength, that it was a terrorist attack and that the YouTube video had nothing to do with it. And yet you could still somehow claim, because there was no certainty, and that's what the administration did. And I think they chose from competing narratives -

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: Where was the tipping point? And what day was the tipping point? What week was the tipping point that you knew of that the intelligence -

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Within 24 hours, they knew it was a terrorist attack.

O'BRIEN: There is one thing to clarify.

PATAKI: Within 24 hours and for two weeks, they're out there saying it.

O'BRIEN: But I would just say in the words that you've chosen when you say the administration said it was a YouTube video, they never said. To me, the verbate is very important. The meat -

CAIN: "Spontaneous attack in response to a video."

O'BRIEN: That is, if you're talking about Susan Rice on the 16. "Our current assessment is what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video."

That was the strongest statement.

CAIN: Within 24 hours they knew it was not only wasn't in response to the video, there was no protest at all.

O'BRIEN: Right, but no one has said, and we've got to be very careful about the verbiage in this, no one said, "It was a YouTube video." Just the same way in which when Candy was correcting, she - PATAKI: The language you just read made it quite plain that the impression they were creating with the American people and with the global community is that it was as a result of that spontaneous demonstration originally caused by a reaction a video that probably no one ever saw.

O'BRIEN: I fully agree with you on that. But I think what Candy said in the debate, and this will be our final point because we are way over in time, was that she was agreeing Governor Romney as well, saying the quote, this was said in terms of the two weeks plus that it was debated and it was inaccurate - I think, I'm trying to remember her exact word - that Governor Romney, you are correct. That is what was said.

So Governor, it's always nice to have you.

PATAKI: It's good to have you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for joining us.

PATAKI: I appreciate you defending your colleague so effectively here.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's really less about defending Candy; it is more about going to the transcript. And I'm happy to have a debate about anything with anybody sticking to the words that were said and then everybody can give their analysis.

PATAKI: I would never run against you and try to debate you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And I would never run. Ever in the history of - that is a guarantee.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you, Governor. We appreciate it. We really got to take a break.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisting she's not going to run in president in 2016. There's lots of folks, though, who don't believe her. We'll take a look at some of the signals and why Secretary Clinton says she can't stand whining.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, watching your money this morning. U.S. stock futures are lowers. Markets close lower yesterday. Earnings growth is slowing and tech earnings have been disappointing, and in Google's case down right surprising. Not only were Google's earnings weaker than expected but they came out by mistake early. That's right --

O'BRIEN: Technology --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: I think, actually, it was a human error. Eight percent lower.

SOCARIDES: That almost never happens.

ROMANS: Almost never happens. A big surprise. The IRS this morning announcing it is raising the contribution limit for your 401 (k) by 500 bucks next year to $17,500. That's what you can sock away pretax. It did last year and the year before. Plus, it's raising the bar for gifts next year to $14,000 up from $13,000. Tax free gifts.

The catch up contribution limit for people over 50 years old remains unchanged at $5,500, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much for that. Appreciate the update.

Hillary Clinton has been a leading figure, obviously, in national/international politics for two decades now, but as her tenure as Secretary of State is winding down, what does she want to do in the future? There are many folks who've said she's going to run for the presidency maybe in 2016. Why did you shake your head no?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: John Berman, he just did an emphatic no. All right. Hold on as we bring Elise Labott in. She's in Washington D.C. Elise, I got -- as I was reading the introduction to you, John Berman was like --

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPOTER: No one believes her. Nobody believes her.

O'BRIEN: Hold on. Hold on. So, go ahead, why -- there are folks who say that even though she says she's not re-quitting, there are folks who say that that's not true, that she -- they do believe she's going to run for the presidency. What is she saying?

LABOTT: Well, Soledad, she said this so many times. In fact, I interviewed her this week, and she repeated that she's not going to run. But, she did this interview with "Marie Claire" magazine in which she said "I've been on this high wire of national and international politics and leadership for 20 years."

"It has absolutely been an 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." Soledad, she's tired. I'm tired from traveling with her.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Come on. Come on. You don't believe that. Really? I'm tired?

LABOTT: I think she believes it right now. I think she -- the frantic pace over the last 3 1/2 years, really, is grueling. I mean, traveling with her for the last 3 1/2 years. She's exhausted to all of this. but I do think after kind of resting and recharging and her supporters coming out of the woodworks and maybe next year saying it has to be you if we're going to get a woman president.

And they've already said, a lot of her aides have told me, if she decides to run, they would drop everything. So, I think right now she really needs a break, but I don't think we've seen --

O'BRIEN: Yes. I need a break, too. Go ahead, John.

BERMAN: In my defense, I was smiling because your introduction to Elise said that Hillary Clinton when she was asked if she would run gave an emphatic no. That is not what she did. She was asked if she's running for president, and her exact words were I am not running. Undeniably true. She is not running right now for president.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- an emphatic no, Richard, is no, not ever in no way. If not (ph), I will not run --

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: I'm going to agree with you, because even her husband, the former president who I worked for and I feel like I work for her, too, said if she's tired give her a rest. We'll see what she says after she's rested.

O'BRIEN: Elise Labott, I'm going to tell you this, I'm going to put some money on this. You and I will be talking about Hillary Clinton, the candidate, at some point in the near future.

LABOTT: I'm sure we will.

O'BRIEN: What does she mean about whining, though? She talked about whining.

LABOTT: OK. Well, this came up in the context of the article by her former policy planning director, Anne Marie Slaughter, very controversial article in which she said that women can't have it all and she had to quit because of the frantic pace. Now, I think there was a little bit of an editorial slight of hand my "Marie Claire" trying to tie those comments to Secretary Clinton saying about Anne Marie Slaughter, "I can't stand whining."

But it was part of a larger conversation about women now it is having a lot more choices. You know, it doesn't necessarily have to be about money. But if you're not happy with what you're doing in life, you know, go out and do something. Volunteer. Do something to make a contribution in the world.

She just felt that, you know, she doesn't like when people sit around, they have a lot of choices but still they're miserable. It was actually part of a conversation about the book "Catcher and the Rye." I mean, I don't think it was a full defensive Anne Marie Slaughter, but it certainly wasn't a dig at her directly.

O'BRIEN: Elise Labott, nice to see you, Elise. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, it's VP nominee, Paul Ryan's home state, Wisconsin, hasn't voted Republican in a presidential race since 1984. We'll take a look at the all-important battleground state and its deciding voters straight ahead this morning.

And then, millions of people follow her on Twitter and on her blog and on TV, "Hungry Girl," Lisa Lillien joins us with her new book.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. In the two-and-a-half weeks the Obama and Romney campaigns will move heaven and earth to try to get those swing voters, those undecided voters, to move to their side. Wisconsin is one of the states still in play. That includes the rural county. CNN Miguel Marquez went down on the farm talking to female voters who could actually end up deciding the election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here we are milking cows in Racine County, Wisconsin. What else are we doing in a place that offers such delicious dairy delicacies? This is a county in play in a place that hasn't voted for a Republican since Reagan in 1984.

The Ranke family has farmed here since Grover Cleveland was president. Marsha Ranke and Linda Nelson have run the family dairy for 16 years. Twice a day, 3:00 a.m. and p.m., they milk their 80 cows. They want to expand, but it's pricey, and credit tight. Their biggest concern government debt acting like an anchor on the economy.

Did you make up your mind who you are voting for?

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

MARQUEZ: But still could change it.

RANKE: Anything can change.

MARQUEZ: So what is it they want out of the White House?

LINDA NELSON, RANKE FAMILY FARMS: It will take someone that wants to strap on their big boy boots and really take charge and say we are in a world of hurt. We need change.

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

These counties voted for George Bush in 2002 and 2004. Those same counties voted Obama in '08. There are more Bush-to-Obama swing counties in Wisconsin than any other state.

Even in the same family votes often split.

GLORIA BART, SLICE CUSTOM CAKES: I am voting for Romney.

MARQUEZ: You think because of his business credentials?

BART: Yes. He is a business man first.

MARGIE VAN BLARICOM, SLICE CUSTOM CAKES: I have no clue who I am going to vote for.

MARQUEZ: Four years ago Gloria and her daughter started their own bakery. They struggled, but the business grew now at a bigger space and three new employees.

Are social issues or economic issues bigger?

BLARICOM: I have to go with economic because of our country, but social issues are important. It isn't right to tell a woman what they can or can't do with their body.

MARQUEZ: Carol Hoppe rents out most of her farm land. She says she works harder than ever to keep their head above water.

Any idea of a campaign?

CAROL HOPPE,: In the mail and on the phone.

MARQUEZ: Five women and one battle ground state, both campaigns working for their votes in the final stretch.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: We have breaking news. We are at the Ranke family farm. Just a few hours after we shot that story one of the heifers gave birth to twin bulls. And the family won't tell us who they voted for but they named this one Mitt. And this cutie over here is Barack. Equal opportunity dairy farmers. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: So cute. Miguel Marquez for us. We're going to check back in with Miguel Tuesday. He's going to be in Stock County, Iowa.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, they have spirit and they can show it. Texas cheerleaders are allowed to tout the Bible slogans on banners. But should they? We're going to talk to a cheerleader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everybody. This just in to CNN -- a car bomb in mainly Christian east Beirut in Lebanon has killed an injured an unknown number of people. Our reporter describes the scene as chaos right now. Smoke is seen pouring out of the buildings. You will want to stay with CNN for all the developing details on this story.

Other news now, she was shot in the head by the Taliban because she fought for women's rights. This morning there is brand new information on the condition of Malala Yousufzai, and it's promising news. Doctors in the U.K. say the Pakistani teen has been able to stand up and is communicating freely. She is writing but not talking because she has a tracheotomy tube inserted. Doctors say the bullet that hit her 10 days ago grazed her brain and there is some physical damage. She is being treated for an infection.

Federal health officials say a batch of steroids was definitely tainted with a deadly fungus. This is the first official confirmation. This has left 20 people dead and infected more than 250 people in 16 states. The FDA is testing two more batches of the drugs right now.

The Detroit Tigers punching in a ticket to the World Series with a clean sweep of the Yankees. The Tigers pounded the Yanks 8-1 in the fourth and final game. The Cardinals took a 3-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants with an 8-3 victory. There will be a game five tonight. This will be a rematch if the cardinals go through with the 2006 World Series.

O'BRIEN: Don't think I don't notice your gloating.

CAIN: When he says stuff like they lost every single game that is advocating.

BERMAN: A sweep means you don't win anything.

O'BRIEN: Can I move on? Fantastic.

Up next we are talking about cheerleaders in Texas. They are now allowed to continue putting bible verses on their spirit banners. Some say it is a violation of the separation of church and state. We'll talk about that.

You know her as hungry girl. Lisa Lillian will talk about her new book called "Hungry Girl to the Max." We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. High school cheerleaders in Texas have temporarily won their fight to use banners that have bible verses at football games. The school district banned the banners and the cheerleaders sued, and a judge extended the injunction.

Macy Matthews is a cheerleader at Kountze High School. She joins us with her mom, Coti; and Mike Johnson is the lawyer who is representing some of those cheerleaders. It's nice to see all of you.

I'm going to begin with you Macy if I can. Tell me a little bit of the background. How did you get the idea to -- to start the football games with holding the banners that the football team would run to? Where did that come from?

MACY MATTHEWS, CHEERLEADER: Well, we we're at Cheer Camp one day and we were eating lunch and a girl on my team had saw a picture on Pinterest that was like another squad that are going run to a sign with a scripture on it. So she showed us a picture and like asked if, you know, we would want to do that. And so we talked about it and we decided that was a good idea and we were all for it.

O'BRIEN: And Coti, I'm curious to know what your thoughts were when your daughter and some of her friends who are cheerleaders said, you know, this is going to be our plan for the football games. Were you -- were you worried at all about it? Did you think it was a great idea?

COTI MATTHEWS, MOTHER OF CHEERLEADER: I thought it was a great idea. I was very proud of her when she came home and told me that they had came up with the idea to do that.

O'BRIEN: Macy when did you realize that it had become controversial? That not everybody was completely happy with it? There was a guy who complained who says he is a nonbeliever and he goes to these games regularly?

M. MATTHEWS: Well no one actually complained about it until about the third football game that we had a sign. And so whenever they made the announcement I was shocked that anybody had complained. I didn't see like what we had done wrong or how we violated anything.

O'BRIEN: So there is a guy named Thomas Brandt and he is the attorney for the Kountze Independent School District. And he says this. "It is pretty clear" -- oh you know we have him I think on tape. Let's roll what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS BRANDT, ATTORNEY, KOUNTZE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: The case law is pretty clear that cheerleaders represent the school. It's a school-sponsored activity. It's a -- it's a football game. It's on the school property, the field. So it seems to me that the law has been fairly clear that that ends up being a school event.

And so it's hard to say that -- I think it's hard to say that this is the individual free speech rights of the individual cheerleaders rather than something that's a sponsored school event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Mike, you're an attorney as I mentioned for a number of the cheerleaders. You obviously disagree with what that attorney, Thomas Brandt, says. Tell me why.

MIKE JOHNSON, ATTORNEY: Yes we disagree and the court does and the U.S. Supreme Court and by the way the Governor of Texas, Governor Perry, the Attorney General Abbott have all weighed in, in support of the cheerleaders here.

Look, the Supreme Court said more than 40 years ago students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to free speech when they walk in the school house gates. So if you are in a hallway between classes or on a football field you're still an American citizen and you have those rights. So we're delighted the court has affirmed that and -- and reaffirmed the girl's rights to speak freely. O'BRIEN: So they sort of affirmed it right, because this is really all going to go to court in the -- in the summer where there will hopefully be some kind of a final decision. And you mentioned you don't shed your constitutional right but I mean I think that's what's in debate here.

Macy, I want to ask you a question. If there was a cheerleader who said to you I'm Jewish actually and you know to read slogans from the bible that talk about Christ makes me really uncomfortable, would you say you know what, maybe we should take down the slogans. Maybe we shouldn't have the team run the slogan, maybe it was a football player who said I'm a nonbeliever and this makes me really uncomfortable, what would you do?

M. MATTHEWS: Well it's the same case like they wanted to hold up a sign with you know something from their religion they have the right to do that and so do we. So there is nothing that we can do about that.

O'BRIEN: So if they decided to hold up and have the football team run through the -- the slogans that have been taken out of the Koran you'd -- you would be fine with that?

M. MATTHEWS: That's their right to do so.

JOHNSON: The law would equally support that. That's -- that's who we are as Americans. We have free speech. We had the free exercise of our religion and unfortunately those liberties are under assault today. If -- if young leaders like this don't take a stand and stand up for those rights they will be taken away.

So this is an encouraging thing, people from all over the country, internationally have -- have come to the support of these girls for standing up for their rights. And it's an important case, it sets an important precedent and we're delight to have gotten win here.

O'BRIEN: Yes I think you're right it is an important case. It's going to be really interesting to see how it's all decided come next summer. Mike Johnson is the attorney. Coti Matthews is the mom of Macy Matthews who is a cheerleader.

Thanks for talking with us this morning. I really appreciate your time.

JOHNSON: Thanks Soledad.

C. MATTHEWS: Thank you.

M. MATTHEWS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet, you bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. Well, we all struggle with eating correctly and well I guess. But hungry girl Lisa Lillien thinks you can have good food and not necessarily eat like a pig. She's going to join us to talk a little bit about that and talk about her new book which is called "Hungry Girl to the Max." We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right. So we all at times eat a little bit too much and we like stuff that's a little bit rich. But our next guest thinks that you can handle cravings without ever compromising your taste. She has released her seventh book. The first six were on "The New York Times" bestsellers list, right?

LISA LILLIEN, AUTHOR, "HUNGRY GIRL TO THE MAX": They were.

O'BRIEN: The book is called "Hungry Girl to the Max: The Ultimate Guilt-Free Cookbook." It weighs roughly 46 pounds. Hungry girl herself Lisa Lillien is with us this morning. Tell me a little bit about how you got into cooking when you really started off as a television executive?

LISA LILLIEN, AUTHOR, "HUNGRY GIRL TO THE MAX": Oh yes I was a TV executive and then I decided to launch a brand about smarter choices when it comes to food. I'm not a nutritionist, I'm not a medical professional. I'm just hungry. And I struggle like so many women with, you know, trying to find that balance, finding foods I want to eat things that were decadent and delicious and still fit into my pants. The bottom line.

O'BRIEN: You lost a lot of weight, right in the process. You started off --

LILLIEN: I did. I lost you know close to 30 pounds and I'm only 5'1" so that's a lot of weight.

O'BRIEN: So tell me a little bit about the recipes. All of your books that I mentioned I think they're on "The New York Times" list and what I love like your cookbooks is they are very user-friendly. I mean, I really don't -- I'm a micro waver I don't really cook.

LILLIEN: Yes I mean, they are so user-friendly. Everyone feels like a chef with this book. It's a lot of product you find on supermarket shelves, things you have in your fridge or your pantry, it could not be easier.

O'BRIEN: You have gotten some flack in the past, for -- there are some people who criticize you for your recipes not being nutritious. They'll say, we'll you know a lot of chefs will say we pick the lettuce from my garden and then this is organic or whatever. And you sort have a very different strategy. How do you answer those critics? This book is a lot more healthy food.

(CROSSTALK)

LILLIEN: Well tons of healthy food and all of my books actually a lot of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meat but this is reality and people are shopping at supermarkets and there are better choices in the inner aisles and I find those choices and I make great food. It's not like people are choosing between a giant pumpkin slice of cheese cake in a cheese cake factory and a Fuji apple. So there's a lot of ocean. (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Can I choose the cheese cake, please?

LILLIEN: Sometimes you have to live the 80/20 rule, 80 percent of the time you go make the right choices, 20 percent of the time you have that cheese cake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And hungry guys can cook -- I only saw like ten bacon recipes in there which is a problem.

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: Anything in the cook book that you can get from takeout?

LILLIEN: That you can get from the book?

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: That you don't actually have to cook? You just get it from takeout.

LILLIEN: This book is as close to takeout as humanly possible. I have to be honest with you.

O'BRIEN: That's just sad. You don't cook at all?

SOCARIDES: I can cook but I choose not to.

CAIN: I can dunk but I choose not to.

O'BRIEN: What is your favorite recipe in here?

(CROSSTALK)

LILLIEN: Talk about the ultimate lazy recipe. You put egg beaters and egg whites in the microwave with vegetables and a wedge of cheese and throw it in there for two minutes. Hot breakfast. Even you can do that.

O'BRIEN: Can you do that with regular eggs?

LILLIEN: You could, absolutely. I like to save cholesterol and fat so I use the egg substitute.

SOCARIDES: This is great for all of us and we are -- the panel here we're very interested in it right before the segment. We were all fighting over it.

Will and I are very interested in how to stay fit and trim.

CAIN: It's so uncomfortable when you are speaking for me.

SOCARIDES: I apparently am not.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: The guys on the show talk more about fashion and their diet. They are very metro.

LILLIEN: And you know what; these recipes really are for men, women -- I mean for anyone who wants to make smarter choices and fit into their clothing which is pretty much everyone on this planet, I think. It's appropriate.

O'BRIEN: It's a fabulous -- it is 500 pages long. Lisa Lillien, so nice to have you. Only 30 pounds, it's 40. "Hungry Girl to the Max: The ultimate guilt free cook book".

It's so great to have you with us this morning. We appreciate.

LILLIEN: Thanks. Good to be here.

O'BRIEN: We are back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We are out of time on STARTING POINT. Have a great weekend everybody. I'm headed to Vegas.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. I'll see you back here on Monday. Hey Carol, good morning.