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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Candidates Spar on Foreign Policy

Aired October 23, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Last words.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden. But we can't kill our way out of this mess.

SAMBOLIN: With two weeks to go and with the race very close, President Obama and Mitt Romney stare each other down one last time and take their parting shots.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.

ROMNEY: I'm not going to wear rose colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin. After the election, he'll get more backbone.

SAMBOLIN: From rose glasses to red lines to red ink, did Mitt Romney gain any red states?

ROMNEY: Attacking me is not an agenda.

SAMBOLIN: Or did President Obama zing his way to a win?

OBAMA: So the question is not a game of battleship.

SAMBOLIN: We go to the scorecards on a special EARLY START.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: Up first, the debates are done. No more debates. President Obama and Mitt Romney going toe to toe over America's role on the world stage.

SAMBOLIN: And by most accounts, it was a more forceful President Obama who came out on top last night. The majority of analysts and voters agreeing Mitt Romney was on the defensive for much of this foreign policy face-off. A CNN/ORC poll of people who watched this third and final debate shows 48 percent favored Obama with 40 percent for Romney. The president now two for three in the showdowns in the polling. He also won the second debate by seven points after taking a 42-point beating in debate number one.

Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash live from Boca Raton, Florida, this morning. I guess the million dollar question this morning is: how much of an impact will this debate have on the outcome of the race, if any?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure is.

But, you know, if you look at this election season, debates have mattered. And that has been true since the Republican primary. This debate, though, was a tricky one for the candidates, because it was about foreign policy which does not rank high on the priority list for voters. So, each candidate wanted to make it about leadership, especially the president.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Mitt Romney came wanting voters to see him as commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief came determined to make sure that didn't happen.

OBAMA: I know you haven't been in position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong.

BASH: Time and time again, the president's harsh criticism tripped with sarcasm.

OBAMA: A few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling asking for their foreign policy back, because, you know, the Cold War has been over for 20 years.

ROMNEY: Our Navy is smaller now than anytime since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We are now at 285.

OBAMA: I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916.

Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We had these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

BASH: Before the debate, Romney advisors told CNN he would not be the scrappy candidate we saw in the last one. Instead, stay solid and steady. Not take the president's bait.

ROMNEY: And attacking me is not an agenda.

BASH: Romney repeatedly blamed the president for failing to lead on global hot spots.

ROMNEY: You look at the record of the last four years and say is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al Qaeda on the run, on its heels? No. Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No.

BASH: But for the most part, Romney was call nm demeanor and remarkably agreeable on policy, from Syria to Egypt to Afghanistan.

ROMNEY: Well, we're going to be finished about 2014. And when I'm president, we'll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014.

BASH: In fact, the Republican who Democrats try to paint as a warmonger used the opening minutes to position himself as a peacemaker.

ROMNEY: I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after leadership in al Qaeda. But we can't kill our way out of this mess.

BASH: Romney got under the president's skin by repeating this allegation.

ROMNEY: And then the president began what I've called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they look at that and saw weakness.

OBAMA: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true -- starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign.

BASH: One of the most fiery exchanges was not about foreign policy, but rather something decidedly American -- the U.S. auto industry.

OBAMA: If we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.

ROMNEY: I'm a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry.

I said they need these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy.

Fortunately, the president picked --

OBAMA: Governor Romney, that's not what you said.

ROMNEY: Fortunately, the president -- you can -- you can take a look at the op-ed.

OBAMA: Governor Romney, you did not -- ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed.

OBAMA: You did not say you would provide, Governor, help.

ROMNEY: I said that we would provide guarantees. And that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy.

OBAMA: Let's check the record.

ROMNEY: That's the height of silliness.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, CNN's poll did show that overall, the president won this debate, at least that's what the viewers voting thought. But if you look at what the goal of Mitt Romney was, to be seen as commander-in- chief, he didn't do so bad. Look quickly at these polls.

Can Romney handle the job of commander-in-chief? Yes, 60 percent. Asked the same question about the president? He's only three points higher at 63 percent.

Again, the whole idea of sitting on the same stage with the president, being able to be seen as a strong leader, that was the goal of the Romney campaign. If you look at that particular poll, he didn't do so bad.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dana Bash live in Boca Raton, Florida -- thank you very much.

BERMAN: As always, the two candidates threw out a lot of numbers, figures and claims. We're trying to keep them honest this morning.

It was a foreign policy debate. And they sparred over troops in Iraq. President Obama claimed that Mitt Romney recently said the U.S. should still have troops in Iraq. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So what are the facts here?

In December of 2011, Romney said this, "We should have left 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqi's own military capabilities." Then just a couple weeks ago, Romney said, "America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence."

So the verdict here is true with important context. Yes, Romney suggested he would have kept some troops in Iraq. But this is the important context. On Iraq, Mitt Romney claimed that President Obama was looking to keep troops there as well which the president seemed to deny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: You and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement. Did you --

OBAMA: That's not true.

ROMNEY: Oh, you didn't -- you didn't want a status of forces agreement?

OBAMA: No, what I -- what I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So what are the facts here?

Well, Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, was negotiating to keep 3,000 to 5,000 troops in Iraq within a so-called status of forces agreement. It fell apart over the issue of whether U.S. troops would have certain immunity from prosecution.

A verdict here is what Romney says here is mostly true. President Obama did seem willing to leave some U.S. troops in Iraq under certain conditions, that deal just fell apart.

SAMBOLIN: Eight minutes past the hour.

As soon as the debate ended and the candidates' families took to the stage, CNN's commentators and analysts offered their opinions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's obvious that the president came to attack governor Romney came to agree. He agreed with him I don't know how many times. It was not -- I didn't think really he didn't have very much to say, to tell you the truth.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think this debate is going to change a thing about the trajectory of this race. The first debate said it all. This debate won't stop it. Mitt Romney has the momentum.

You almost got the sense that the American people are so focused on the economy this cycle. Foreign policy debates like this are not going to click, they're not going to register.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the early part of the debate and the last part of the debate, I thought Mitt Romney did fairly well. But President Obama dominated the better of the debate. I think he did emerge winning on debate points. I think he won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: But David Gergen went on to say that he believes Mitt Romney passed an important test in this debate, what he called the commander-in-chief test.

BERMAN: The debate set out a frenzy of searches on Google. CNN political reporter Peter Hamby, our friend, says that from 9:00 to 10:45 Eastern last night, the top five rising searches on Google were horses and bayonets, Syria, Mali, drones, and tumult.

And if you missed last night's debate, or want to see it again, including all the tumult, just tune in to CNN today at noon Eastern for an encore presentation.

SAMBOLIN: And coming up, President Obama talking about the strength of our enemy on his watch as commander-in-chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And as a consequence, al Qaeda's core leadership has been decimated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So is this true? We're going to go live to Washington to get the real story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

President Obama and Mitt Romney sparred face-to-face one final time, with each trying to tear down the other's commander-in-chief credentials. So were any facts harmed in last night's debate?

CNN foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott is doing fact checking for us now. She's live in Washington.

And, Elise, the candidates argued over the threat of al Qaeda.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: That's right, John. That was one of the big issues of contention. Last night, President Obama said, repeating his claim al Qaeda's core leadership has been decimated.

Now, Mitt Romney says not so really. Al Qaeda is involved in 10 or 12 countries.

Now, John, there's no disputing al Qaeda's leader Osama bin Laden was killed in that raid in Pakistan. And the Obama administration also dramatically upped -- used drones in Pakistan, killing a lot of key al Qaeda operatives.

But that focuses on the so-called al Qaeda core, the original group. What's worrisome here is al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, North Africa, elsewhere in the Middle East, particular concern is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, operating in Yemen, who hatched that underwear bomber a few years ago. Then, there's al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda extremist group in Somalia, is considered a threat. Mali and Libya, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operating there, believed to be tied to that attack in the U.S. consulate in Libya. And then the unrest in Syria provided an opportunity for al Qaeda in Iraq in that country.

So really here both claims are true, John. President Obama's claim on core leadership has been weakened. But those affiliates are active and remain a threat to U.S. interest.

BERMAN: So, Elise, President Obama called Mitt Romney a flip-flopper a lot on a lot of subjects. But one of the big ones last night on the foreign policy debate was Afghanistan.

LABOTT: Well, that's right. President Obama accused Mitt Romney of initially being against the withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2014. But as early as last year, Mitt Romney said he agrees with the 2014 withdrawal date. And he stuck with that. But he has said he would talk to his commanders on the ground to evaluate the conditions in Afghanistan before the withdrawal.

Now, this stipulation of seeking advice from commanders ahead of the withdrawal is really where President Obama and Romney differ. The Obama administration has repeatedly stated the 2014 withdrawal date is absolute. You heard Vice President Biden say that in his debate.

Now what Romney is always criticized President Obama for is announcing that withdrawal date.

So this claim here is mostly false. Governor Romney agrees with that 2014 withdrawal but has added that caveat, seeking advice from commanders on the ground. That does leave the door open for possibly staying longer, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Elise. It does leave the door open. But last night Romney was singing a different tune on that. He did say, as far as he knows right now, the generals are saying 2014 is a good time to come out of Afghanistan. That is the first time he said that. Thank you, Elise Labott.

SAMBOLIN: It is 15 minutes past the hour.

In other news this morning, fungal meningitis outbreak is growing. Federal health officials now say that 23 people have died. This is across 16 states. The total number of cases has reached 297. The outbreak has been linked to steroid pain injections made by a Massachusetts company.

BERMAN: The big announcement today from Apple. Actually, it's not that big of an announcement. It's just a mini one. Get it?

Apple is expected to introduce a smaller version of its popular iPad. Rumor is floating around the tech world that the screen will be 7.85 inches down from 10 inches. It is expected to cost $250.

SAMBOLIN: Hopefully the fonts will be bigger.

The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. Did you watch last night?

They routed the Cardinals 9-0 to complete a remarkable come back in the NLCS, winning games five, six, seven going away. San Francisco is now headed to the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. The Giants are 6-0 in games where they faced elimination this postseason.

Second baseman Marco Scutaro was named the series MVP. The Giants will have home field advantage tomorrow night in San Francisco.

BERMAN: Marco Scutaro --

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- playing for the Red Sox, leaving me wondering, you know, why can't we get guys like this.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, you poor thing.

BERMAN: It is 16 minutes after the hour right now.

And coming up, our military might buy the numbers. We're going to crunch the numbers to see if President Obama's debate claims about defense spending add up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning. And welcome back to EARLY START. We're minding your business.

U.S. stock futures are down this morning after markets closed flat yesterday.

BERMAN: That's all great. But let's get back to the debate.

My guru Christine has been looking at some of the president's claims on military spending and doing some fact checks for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we looked at the president's claims about military spending. Listen to what he said first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Our military spending has gone up every single year that I've been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined -- China, Russia, France, United Kingdom, you name it. The next 10.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. Part one of that claim, military spending has been rising in each of the years since he took office. This is true. Military spending has been going up over the past four years.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent conflict research think-tank, U.S. military spending has been going up since even before Obama took office. In 2008, it was $621 billion. It increased every year Obama was in office to 2011 when it reached more than $711 billion. Those are in unadjusted dollars.

Let's take a look at the second part of the president's claim. He said we spend more on the American military than the next 10 countries combined. Our verdict, this is a true statement.

The U.S. military spending in 2011 was, as I showed you, $711 billion. The next 10 countries combined spent $611 billion from the same source, SIPRI. The U.S. spends more on its military than China, Russia, the U.K., France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Brazil, and Italy combined.

When you look at China, you hear people concerned about the rapid rise of China's military. China's military, $143 billion in its spending. The difference here, so we outspent China 4-1, the rapid increase in how quickly China is spending money.

And China doesn't have to borrow other people's money to fund its military growth. It has its own dollars -- actually dollars that it gets from the United States because we borrow money to buy their stuff. So that's one of the -- it's not necessarily unbalanced as it looks on many people who study defense today.

BERMAN: Still, it's an interesting number to say we spend as much as the next 10 countries combined.

ROMANS: The reason why this comes up is because the sequester at the end of the year. I mean, what happens if you have this big huge chunk off a U.S. military spending -- quickly, what does that do to military contractors? What does it do to American military readiness and the like? There you go.

SAMBOLIN: It's nice to have a little perspective. We appreciate that. Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: We expected President Obama and Governor Romney to disagree during the debate. And, yes, they did, a lot. But there was a surprising amount of agreement, too. You're going to hear them both on the same page coming up.

If you're leaving the house right now, you can watch us anytime on your desktop or mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al Qaeda. But we can't kill our way out of this mess.

OBAMA: What we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: President Obama and Mitt Romney, the men who want to be president, face off one last time, this time over America's power and how to use it.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have with you us this morning.

Twenty-seven minutes past the hour.

The debates are officially done. And with two weeks to go before America votes, both candidates are hitting the campaign trail this morning. There's more aggressive President Obama who by most accounts won last night's third and final presidential debate.

The president fiercely defending his foreign policy credentials with the GOP challenger frequently agreeing with his positions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The same as the president did. I want to underscore the same point the president made. The president was right to up the usage of that technology.

OBAMA: There have been times during the course of this campaign where it sounded like you thought that you do the same things we did but you'd say them louder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: A CNN/ORC poll of people who watched the foreign policy showdown shows 48 percent favor President Obama with 40 percent for Mitt Romney.

Senior congressional Dana Bash live from Boca Raton, Florida, this morning.

And the big question I guess, Dana, is this going to matter?

BASH: No. We will see as the polls start to come out after this debate in the next few days. But it was very, very interesting what he just played did underscore the first debate had President Obama trying to avoid those kind of bumper sticker lines we heard one after another last night while Mitt Romney tried to just play cool.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Mitt Romney came wanting voters to see him as commander-in-chief, commander-in-chief came determined to make sure that didn't happen.

OBAMA: I know you haven't been in position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong.

BASH: Time and time again, the president's harsh criticism tripped with sarcasm.

OBAMA: A few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling asking for their foreign policy back, because, you know, the Cold War has been over for 20 years.

ROMNEY: Our Navy is smaller now than anytime since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We are now at 285.

OBAMA: I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916.

Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We had these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.

BASH: Before the debate, Romney advisors told CNN he would not be the scrappy candidate we saw in the last one. Instead, stay solid and steady, not take the president's bait.

ROMNEY: And attacking me is not an agenda.

BASH: Romney repeatedly blamed the president for failing to lead on global hot spots.

ROMNEY: You look at the record of the last four years and say is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al Qaeda on the run on its heels? No. Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No.

BASH: But for the most part, Romney was calm in demeanor and remarkably agreeable on policy from Syria to Egypt to Afghanistan.

ROMNEY: We're going to be finished by 2014. And when I'm president, we'll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014.

BASH: In fact, the republican who democrats tried to paint as a war monger used the opening minutes to position himself as a peacemaker.

ROMNEY: I congratulate him on taking out Osama Bin Laden and going after the leadership in al Qaeda, but we can't kill our way out of this mess.

BASH: Romney's successfully got under the president's skin by repeating this allegation -- ROMNEY: And then the president began what I'm called an apology tour of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think that (INAUDIBLE) weakness.

OBAMA: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (on-camera): Now, this was a debate that was supposed to be exclusively about foreign policy. But at times, both candidates tried very hard to wrangle it back here to the United States to talk about issues like the auto bailout which was a pretty fiery exchange, to education, to teachers and, of course, to the economy. They understand both of them that that is the issue that voters are going to go to the polls on.

SAMBOLIN: Dana, we know that going into the debate, both candidates were attempting to woo women. How did they fair there?

BASH: You know, that was one of the things that fascinated me most about this debate, particularly, when you look at Mitt Romney's performance. We understand from polls, historically from exit polls, that women tend to be more inclined to sort of recoil from the idea of going -- of military action abroad. That they tend to like the whole concept of somebody wanting to sound peaceful.

That is exactly what you heard from Mitt Romney. He is -- he definitely appeared to be trying to close the gender gap even more than it already has. Women break late in election. They tend to be the last deciders, and that really, really seemed to be on Mitt Romney's mind the way he was answering questions, or in some cases, not answering questions last night.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to be talking shortly here about that specifically and how women reacted to the debate last night. Dana Bash live for us in Boca Raton, Florida, thank you very much.

BERMAN: When it comes to dealing with Iran and its nuclear ambitions, Mitt Romney and President Obama agree that a military strike is on the table, but, only as a last resort. Yet, both candidates accuse each other of being reckless on the issue. So, who's right and how do their approaches differ? Time for a fact check with CNNs Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John and Zoraida. Both of these candidates came into this debate saying that Iran's nuclear program is a serious issue, and it has been ever since Barack Obama took office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history. The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that during the course of this campaign, he's often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake. ROMNEY: I think from the very beginning, one of the challenges we've had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. I think they saw weakness. And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: They agree on many things. Each man says Iran will not get a nuke on my watch. Each one says economic sanctions are a good way of pushing Iran, and each one admits that ultimately, it might reach the point where a military strike is needed to stop Iran's nuclear program. But they very much disagree on what should be emphasized in this equation and in recent months that has led each one to suggest my opponent is being reckless about Iran.

Let's consider the two options here. We'll start with the military one, because that's one extreme. And to consider that, we brought in a life-sized digital model of a Shahab-3 missile. We've done this just so you can see what size it is, how mobile it is, and how easily this could be hidden in, say, a bunker, or perhaps, the hold of a ship.

We know Iran has plenty of these. We know they're reasonably reliable, reasonably accurate, and we know they're powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead in that nose cone right up there. So, if Iran gets a nuke, it does have a way of delivering it, not the United States. It's not strong enough for that, not even to most of Europe.

But, it could easily reach all of the Middle East, and certainly, it could reach the American ally, Israel. Iran says it has no designs on that. It's not even trying to build a nuclear weapon. And yet, it is widely believed that Israel has a contingency plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and bomb them if need be to keep that from happening.

Here's the danger. There's no proof that such an attack would absolutely work. And if it did not, Iran would still have a nuclear program, and they would then have the pretext for saying we need nukes because look at how we've been attacked. Nonetheless, when Mitt Romney talks about the need for strength, what he means is that the U.S. must send a very clear message that if Israel attacks that way, America will stand behind Israel.

Barack Obama says let's not rattle the sword so much. Let's rattle the piggy bank a good bit more. He's talking about sanctions, the pressure that has been put on the rial. This is the official currency of Iran. And since October of last year, trade sanctions from the United States and other countries have really hammered this.

Look at this. In October of 2011, it took 12,500 rial to equal one U.S. dollar. Now, it's 35,000. Some imported products in Iran now have doubled in cost since a year ago. A lot of citizens there are very unhappy about it, and this is the theory. By creating economic, social, and political pressure on Iran's leaders through this, it will force them to the bargaining table to talk about giving up their nuclear program in exchange for the sanctions being lifted.

So, what's the danger here? Well, the danger here is what if it doesn't work? What if Iran uses this, these negotiations as a stalling tactic while a nuclear weapon is being built? So, let's get back to the basic claim here. When these people suggest that my opponent is being reckless with Iran, the truth is, we can say, they may believe that.

We have to give a rate of incomplete, because nobody knows how this story is going to play out. Only when Iran either gives up its nuclear program or announces it has a nuclear bomb will we know who was reckless and who was right.

BERMAN: That was CNN's Tom Foreman. If you missed last night' debate or want to see it again, including our full sized missiles, tune in to CNN today at noon eastern for an encore p presentation.

SAMBOLIN: thirty-seven minutes past the hour. Caffeine overload. Coming up, federal officials taking a hard look at the health effects of energy drinks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The third and final presidential debate is on the books. You're looking at the Capitol right there where both candidates would like to be next year by all accounts. The third and final debate was a victory for President Obama who won the foreign policy face-off according to our polls and most pundits. He was more forceful, the analysts say, with Mitt Romney striking a more moderate tone and frequently on the defensive.

Joining me with more on last night's final presidential debate is CNN contributor and Republican strategist, Ana Navarro. Ana, our poll of debate watchers found that the president did win 48 percent to 40 percent. You think that's a fair assessment? What do you think he did well in the debate last night?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, I did see him win last night. And I think what he did well was show the authority that comes with being president. It gives him a clear advantage. You know, John, there's nothing like showing up at a foreign country in a big Air Force One. And I think that showed yesterday.

But, you know, I also think Romney held his own. And two things I would say to you. Yes, Barack Obama won last night. But, Mitt Romney did not lose to the level that President Obama lost in the first debate. And I think this third debate has mattered less than the first debate. We have not seen through the polls that the second debate was nearly a game changer as much as the first debate was.

Let's remember that before the first debate, President Obama had a lead. The momentum was on his side. The trend was good for him. And that all changed as a result of the first debate. I saw Mitt Romney slightly narrowly lose the second debate. We haven't seen that translate into anything in the polls. He's now the one with momentum, and we have to see what happen as a result of this third debate. BERMAN: I'll tell you what, though, Ana. There is the sense of the second debate. It stemmed some of the bleeding for Obama. It stopped the momentum in the Romney direction, but let's leave that there, because there was a new tone in a lot of cases for Mitt Romney last night. He spent a lot of time agreeing with the president. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I felt the same as the president did. I want to underscore the same point that president made. The president was right to up the usage of that technology.

OBAMA: There have been times, governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign where it sounded like you thought that you'd do the same things we did, but you'd say them louder

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, "The New York Times" editorial board not surprisingly seemed to agree with the president this morning. It said, "Mr. Romney's problem is that he does actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Obama has already done or plans to do." So, Ana, you think this is a problem for Romney or is this all part of the move to the center and is it working?

NAVARRO: You know, it happened way too many times for it to be a coincidence. This was obviously a practiced, strategic decision by the Romney campaign. And I also heard President Obama many times turn to him and say in a sarcastic tone, well, I'm glad you agree with me on this one. I think, you know, President Obama took the opportunity to school Mitt Romney a bit.

And as I said, you know, he's been president for four years. Look, four years ago, when President Obama was running, when candidate Obama was running against John McCain. He was the one that had very little foreign policy experience. Obviously, he's learned something in the last four years.

BERMAN: Do you think this matters? I mean, you said the second debate didn't matter. The first one went to Romney, the second one went to Obama. This third one in a way was a rubber match. In a close race, might it have some effect?

NAVARRO: I think anything has an effect in a close race. This race is extremely close. But we did see, look, they've now gone through three 90-minute debates. We haven't seen horrific gaffes from any of them. You know, we also haven't seen huge knockout lines or knockout blows from any of them.

I was disappointed that Governor Romney did not take the opportunity to land a solid blow on Benghazi. I was amazed, John, that that issue was almost glossed over when it's been such a big issue and such a salient issue in the recent past. You know, look, it's -- they're over. Now, the question is what happens with the undecided? We have a handful of undecided, frankly, around this country. And I'm not sure that they saw anything last night that's going to help them decide today. You know, we're yet to hear on that, too.

BERMAN: They better decide quickly.

NAVARRO: I hope they do. They're killing me.

BERMAN: All right. Ana Navarro, CNN contributor and Republican strategist, it's always great to see you. Only wish you were here us with in studio this morning. Thanks, Ana.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It's 45 minutes past the hour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The FDA investigating five deaths that may have occurred from consuming too much caffeine. It's in those Monster energy drinks. This comes after the company was sued by a Maryland couple in connection with their teenage daughter's death.

Monster is the top-selling energy drink in the United States. That news triggered a Monster sell-off with their stock plunging 14 percent.

BERMAN (voice-over): Winter is still two months away, but parts of Northern California are covered in snow. Snow.

SAMBOLIN: Wow!

BERMAN: This is what it looked high in the Sierra Mountains.

SAMBOLIN: Skinny season.

BERMAN: California highway patrol said drivers were not prepared for the storm. Why should they be? It's October. Emergency officials responded to a lot of car accidents.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Facebook investors are bracing for the firm's third quarter earnings report after today's closing bell. The company's revenue for the quarter is expected to reach $1.2 billion, slightly higher than last quarter, but Wall Street still wants to know how Facebook plans to get up to speed with mobile ads. As millions of users shift to apps on their phones.

BERMAN: In about an hour or so, this rocket is set to blast off for the next set of International Space Station crew members onboard. The U.S. and Russian crew is expected to reach the station on Thursday. The three astronauts already orbiting lab will return to earth next month.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Forty-six minutes past the hour. With both candidates trying to win the Midwest, we're in a key swing state talking to some of the toughest voters out there. They are the deciders. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome back to EARLY START.

As we've been reporting throughout this campaign season, voters in key Midwestern states are going to decide the outcome of the presidential election. CNN's Miguel Marquez has traveled all across that region. He is taking the pulse of the voters there. This morning, we catch up with our reporter in Davenport, Iowa, located in Scott County, the heart of roller derby country. I can't wait to see what you have in store for us, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That will make sense in just a moment. We are in Scott County, but you know who's going to be here tomorrow is President Obama here in Davenport. And just a few hours later, Governor Romney will be in Cedar Rapids. So, Iowa is definitely on the map. It is highly contested here. I can tell the candidates if they are going to win Iowan votes, they're going to have to work really hard and be really tough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: If it's davenport, it's got to be roller derby (INAUDIBLE). Scott County is just one of several battlegrounds here in America's heartland. In this one county alone, there are enough votes to turn this state blue or red.

(voice-over): The rollers demonstrated their signature move.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Blocking in front of you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my God!

MARQUEZ: Oh, and by the way --

You're booty dud block me.

MARQUEZ: They're really tough. These rough and tumbled Midwestern women also voters.

(on-camera): So, it's all about keeping the other side from moving forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

MARQUEZ: This is like politics, you realize.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're behind you, guys.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Waitress Connie Hart has worked at the machine shed restaurant for 26 years. Her derby name, Diamond Dust. Her specialty, blocking. Her biggest issue, the economy.

How tough has it been?

CONNIE HART, "DIAMOND DUST": It's been tight. It's been real tight.

MARQUEZ: Because less money, higher gas?

HART: Less money. A lot of people don't want to go out to eat as much as they used to.

MARQUEZ: By day, Carrie De Crane is a social worker helping kids with special needs. On some nights, she's Lady Gotcha, a jammer. That's the one that scores the points.

What is important in this election?

CARRIE DE CRANE, "LADY GOTCHA": I want to make sure there's going to be budgeting for the people who actually need it, jobs as well. I want there to be continued job growth.

MARQUEZ: De Crane says she'll likely vote for third party.

(on-camera) Republicans say this is like 2004 with just a few counties broke their way giving Bush a very narrow victory here. Democrats argue their advantage, the low unemployment rate now just 5.2 percent, among the lowest in the country. This is a single machine?

PAT POLLACK, GENESIS SYSTEMS GROUP: This is a single machine, and it's only part of the machine.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Scott County in Iowa rebounded with help from companies like Genesis Systems Group, a manufacturer of industrial robots. Increasingly its business is overseas.

Are you hiring?

POLLACK: We have done some hiring this year. I think we're up about ten people. Overall. But we're still about 10 percent lower than we were in 2007.

MARQUEZ: Scott County, an economic bright spot in the heartland whose voters can be tough to win over.

Oh, my goodness!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (on-camera): All right. We knew politics was bruising. I didn't realize how bruising it could be. The polls here are incredibly tight. The president up consistently by a point or two, but it is very tight. And republicans do feel that if he can pick just up a few votes really in counties like Scott County here and others across the state, they can shift the state into their column -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, we're still focused on the fact that you're taking blows in order to be able to tell the story. We're going to give you high five for that one. That's pretty remarkable.

BERMAN: Well done.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: All right --

MARQUEZ: Anything for you two. You know, it's all about you.

SAMBOLIN: And we very much appreciate that. Thank you very much, Miguel Marquez.

And another key state that will decide the election is Colorado. Later in the week, Miguel will meet voters in Jefferson County, and he'll join us live from there, Golden, Colorado.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: All right. We have a packed post-debate hour ahead on EARLY START, including debate reaction from the man who helped coach Mitt Romney during primary season. We'll see what Fred O'Donnell has to say about the governor's performance last night from (INAUDIBLE) to Bin Laden. Did Romney pass the Commander-in-Chief test?

SAMBOLIN: Also, we'll hear from Romney campaign foreign policy adviser and former senator, Norm Coleman, on how the Republican candidate matched up against the president.

BERMAN: But first, you won't want to miss this, your late night laughs coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So, let's go beyond the winners and losers in last night's debate and talk about the punch line. It's this morning edition of "Late Night Laughs."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Tonight, President Obama and Mitt Romney hold their final debate in Boca Raton, Florida.

(APPLAUSE)

O'BRIEN: Yes. Oh, yes. The topic of the debate is what's more shocking to see in Boca Raton, a Mormon or a black guy.

(LAUGHTER)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": So, there were three. The debates made three episodes. Three. That makes it NBC's most successful show so far this season.

(LAUGHTER)

LENO: And, you know, you know it's kind of cool (ph). The debate tonight was special because it was broadcast in 3D. It's as if the candidates were reaching in and taking your wallet right out of your pocket.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": They say Mitt Romney won the first debate. Now, pundits are also saying that the second debate probably won by President Obama. Whoever wins the third debate, that's the one held tonight, will meet the Tigers in the World Series.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)