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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Swing State Scramble; Halloween Nightmare?; Giants Take Game 1 of World Series; Final Swing State Scramble; Benghazi Attack Suspect Arrested; Arrests in Shooting of Pakistani Girl>

Aired October 25, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama and Mitt Romney in a swing state scramble. This morning, one of those states is leaning red. Another is looking blue.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Sandy may be a Halloween nightmare. The storm slams Cuba and the Northeast could be next. You'll want to pay attention to this.

SAMBOLIN: A stunning feat for a Giants slugger. Pablo Sandoval does something few others have done on the World Series stage. Go Giants.

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

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman.

It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We're going to begin with eight must-win battleground states and just 12 days left to turn them red or blue. President Obama and Mitt Romney are tabbing are travel budgets hard right now. Both men crisscrossing the country, targeting the toss-up states.

Now, Ohio may be the most pivotal. And a new poll from "Time" magazine has the President ahead by five points in the Buckeye State on the strength of the early voting, which is trending in his favor right now.

But the Romney camp has something to crow about as well this morning. CNN is shifting the state of North Carolina from a true toss-up to leaning Romney.

Now, both candidates are driving home their message to cheering crowds yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no more serious issue in the presidential campaign than who can you trust. Trust matters. Who is going to look out for you?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Those debates have propelled our campaign forward in a major way. (APPLAUSE)

Attacking me is not an agenda for the future, and America wants a bright and prosperous course ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BERMAN: And there was another big development overnight. The President went on "The Tonight Show" last night and jumped hard into the battle over abortion and for women voters.

CNN political reporter Peter Hamby joins us live now from Washington.

Peter, this has to do with the comments made by Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who suggested pregnancy from rape was something God intended.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, and Democrats are seizing on those comments, of course. Republicans say his words are being twisted. Mourdock basically saying, these are my principles. I believe that, you know, if a woman is pregnant because of rape, that it's a gift from God.

Well, Obama, like you said, didn't wade into this. He jumped in hard. This is what he said about it when he was asked about it on Leno last night, John.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Let me make a very simple proposition: rape is rape. It is a crime.

The second thing this underscores though, is, this is exactly why you don't want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women's health care decisions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBY: Gee, what male politicians coupled he be referring to? He's clearly here making an attempt to, you know, point out that Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan, you know, actually opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest. He's voted that way in the House.

This is an attempt again by the President to sort of appeal to women voters. That gender gap has kept really him afloat, although it's shrunk a lot in recent weeks. So, this is a good thing for the Obama campaign. They want this in the headlines.

One other quick point on this, John, on Anderson Cooper last night, John McCain who is campaigning in Florida today said Mourdock should come out and apologize for these comments. Mitt Romney has not actually said that.

So, the chance for this staying in the news another day, you know, is pretty good. Thanks to President Obama's comments on Leno last night.

BERMAN: Right, it's high. I mean, John McCain actually complicates things for both Mitt Romney and Richard Mourdock with those comments.

The President on Leno last night also waded into this Donald Trump issue. Donald Trump, with his big October surprise, saying he'd give $5 million donation if the President releases his college records. The President kind of took that head on last night, Peter.

HAMBY: Yes, he did. This is -- Leno asks the President, you know, what's Trump's beef with you? This is what Obama has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya.

(APPLAUSE)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": I got to give you that one.

OBAMA: We had constant run-ins on the soccer field. He wasn't very good. He resented it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBY: John, this is what of those moments you remember why President Obama's likability ratings actually are higher than Mitt Romney's. Obama is very good in these environments, cracking jokes, you know, being a little self deprecating in a way that Mitt Romney is not. Again, like the women question, likability is another thing that's kept afloat so far in this campaign.

BERMAN: Peter, you have a great piece up on CNN.com right now. I recommend it to everyone out there in the audience right now, talking about the swing states. Right now, we say there are about eight toss- ups here at CNN. Which are the most swingingest? Which ones are the most up for grabs? Which ones are trending to whom?

HAMBY: There's a bit of a consensus within the campaigns that, you know, I called it in my story the big 10 firewall -- Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, the three Midwestern states. Obama has advantages there. If he can hold those advantages, you know, his path to reelection becomes a lot easier. Remember, he only has to make up about 30 electoral votes here to be reelected.

You mentioned earlier that CNN moved North Carolina lean Romney. Polls there show tight Democrats are leading in early voting in North Carolina, but talking to Democrats and Republicans, they both say this is very, very tough state for Obama to win. Remember he only won it by 14,000 votes, that's it, in 2008.

But the good news for the Obama campaign here is they don't need that state. Remember, their path is a lot easier to get to those 270 electoral votes. Obama is actually flying over North Carolina today from Tampa to my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, to make campaign stops. The Republicans are organizing an event in North Carolina on a tarmac to say, hey, President Obama, if you are so confident about North Carolina as your campaign advisors say, why aren't you stopping here? Why aren't you campaigning here? Come on down.

So, I don't think President Obama is actually going to do that.

BERMAN: No, he can wave to them from the sky.

Peter Hamby in Washington, thanks very much. Always great to see you.

HAMBY: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: It is six minutes past the hour.

Reports of two deaths now because of hurricane Sandy, one is in Jamaica, the other one is in Haiti. The storm slammed into Cuba earlier this morning, as a strong category two storm. It's packing 110-mile-an-hour winds.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano very hard at work for us in Atlanta.

And, Rob, the National Hurricane Center just issued a new advisory. What's the latest there?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A hundred five-mile-an-hour winds. It really hasn't weakened a whole lot, even though it went over eastern Cuba. Still over land right now. And you see the satellite picture behind me, Zoraida.

This thing blew up last night. Rapid intensification and do a strong category 2 storm with 110-mile-an-hour winds. Just telling you that the atmosphere even in late October can still beep up these storms quite ready especially over the Caribbean. Now, it's just about to reemerge or emerge into the Atlantic Ocean here and the Bahamas, just over the eastern tip of Cuba, moving northerly at 18 miles an hour. It's pretty quick, but we expect it to slow down.

And then, of course, the forecast is getting a little bit tricky. Hurricane warnings are up for the Bahamas. Tropical storm warnings that are posted for eastern Florida, and that's been expanded all the way up to Flagler Beach for tropical storm conditions here in the next 24 to 36 hours. Already the moisture and rain bands have been feeding into south Florida, from Miami, back to Key Marathon, even all the way to Key West.

So, we're starting to feel the impacts of this very large storm. And we'll have a big circulation that will affect everybody on the East Coast in one way, shape or form. This is turning out to be a monitor storm, especially for this late in season. And don't need a direct hit, you get some sort of impact.

Here is the forecast track. We'll talk about the uncertainty here. Early Friday morning, we get it into the Bahamas. It's not going to make a direct hit on Florida at this point. But it will be close enough to give you those tropical storm force conditions. Then we get this fall weather pattern to play into the situation. And typically this time of year, strong gust pushed out to sea, but we'll get a dip in the jet and that may actually suck it and retrograde the low back towards the Northeast. So, that's what we're concerned about in the beginning of next week.

Option one is to head it out to sea. Option two, which looks more likely today, I got to tell you, than it did yesterday. Option two would bring it somewhere into the Northeast, anywhere from D.C. up to Maine.

We'll try to pinpoint it down a little bit more for you.

BERMAN: I keep telling, Zoraida, this is a serious. This is a serious storm that could hit us next week in the Northeast. We have to watch out.

MARCIANO: And beyond just getting wet, as far as trick-or-treating goes, it could be a really bad storm.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Rob.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks for the warning. We appreciate it.

I'll take it more seriously, all right?

So, now, the latest in the shooting of anti-Taliban activist Malala Yousufzai. Nine arrest have been made. But the man Pakistani police called the main shooting suspect, 23-year-old Atta Ullah Khan, is still at large. It's his picture. His mother, brother and fiancee were among those arrested.

Malala is said to be making good progress. She is at a British hospital. She's reportedly fighting an infection. But listen to this, she has been able to move her extremities and she has been able to stand up with the help of nurses as well.

We're going to get a live report.

BERMAN: That's good news.

Authorities say it was a great white shark that killed a surfer in southern California this week. A just-released photo shows a surf board with teeth marks from the shark.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BERMAN: Wow.

They believe the shark was at least 15 feet long.

Thirty-nine-year-old Francisco Solorio died in the attack off of Surf Beach. That's at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Wow.

SAMBOLIN: Bank of America is being sued by the Justice Department for $1 billion. The bank is accused of committing fraud by knowingly selling bad mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are backed by the federal government. Officials said those defective mortgages cost taxpayers over $1 billion.

This is the first civil fraud suit brought by the Justice Department over mortgage loans sold to Fannie and Freddie.

BERMAN: All right. World Series game one. I was shocked when I woke up to this. This was a stunner, a night to remember for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The man they called Kung Fu Panda tied a World Series record, hitting three home runs.

SAMBOLIN: When was the last time that happened?

BERMAN: Last year actually. But few other guys have ever done it ever.

The first two runs came off tigers ace Justin Verlander, who maybe one of the best pitchers in baseball. Sandoval propelled the Giants to a quick 4-0 lead on their way to an 8-3 win.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BERMAN: Verlander, again, who's been white hot all post-season, he lasted just four innings. So, the Giants beat the ace.

Meantime, the Giants game one starter Barry Zito was masterful. He shut down the Tigers' lineup pitching into the sixth inning. His curveball was majestic. He was relieved by fellow former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum who retired seven straight batters, striking out five. He was great, too. He's had a rough season.

As for Pablo Sandoval, he talked about being part of history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PABLO SANDOVAL, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, THIRD BASEMAN: I still can't believe it, man. You know, it's part of the dreams, when you're little kid you dream of World Series, you know? But I was thinking of being in this situation, three homers in one game. You know, you have keep focused, keep focused in playing your game.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols last year and Pablo Sandoval, the only players to hit three home runs in one World Series game. Sandoval is the first one to do it in his first three at bat. So, it's even more impressive.

The Tigers will try to even the series tonight in game 2.

This game was shocking.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. But still plenty of time for all you Tigers fans out there.

BERMAN: Plenty of time. SAMBOLIN: Yes.

A famous 19th century lady is showing off her 21st century makeover. We have an exclusive look inside the newly renovated Statue of Liberty. That is coming up.

BERMAN: And she's hot!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

She used to have plenty of visitors. The tired, poor, huddled masses being ferried from Lower Manhattan. New York's Statue of Liberty has had a multimillion dollar makeover. This weekend, the statue will reopen to the public on 126th birthday.

So, I got an exclusive inside look at the new Lady Liberty, and I was in really good company.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The Statue of Liberty's crown and interior have been closed for a year. But for retired Marine Corps Larry Hughes, it's seemingly been longer. That's because the observation level of this iconic symbol of freedom was not wheelchair accessible until today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hell of a ride.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Hughes, a Vietnam vet, is taking the inaugural ride in a newly installed elevator to the statue's observation deck.

LARRY HUGHES, VIETNAM VETERAN: Just to be here was something that never really entered into my mind because simply, I hate to be turned down, I hate to be rejected. So I'm no longer being rejected. I'm being here.

SAMBOLIN: The new elevator is just part of a year-long $30 million renovation that also includes upgrading stairwells and making safety improvements. The end result, a more accessible Lady Liberty that will allow an additional 26,000 visitors each year a chance to enjoy her spectacular views.

KIRK BAUER, VIETNAM VETERAN: When these adoptions are made, it opens up tremendous opportunities for all of us.

SAMBOLIN: Among the first to see the new renovations, two generations of severely wounded warriors.

I joined Kirk Bauer who lost his leg in Vietnam and Jesse Acosta who suffered injuries to his hip from roadside bomb in Iraq on the 146- step climb to the top.

(on camera): So you stuck your head out of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crown!

SAMBOLIN: The crown. Very cool. So, what do you think? Is this what you expected?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fantastic. It's more tight than I thought looking up. But it is just an incredible view.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The renovation was full of challenges because of the statue's location and because they had to do it all without drilling into any part of the historic structure.

MICHAEL MILLS, ARCHITECT: It was a challenge, a huge challenge, because we had to envision all of this, make this building more safe, more code compliant, more accessible, more welcoming, and do it in a way that respected the historic fabric.

JESSE ACOSTA, IRAQ VETERAN: It's very impressive what they did, to see the investment in these days in a world heritage site to allow those with perceived disabilities, those that need access to see some of our historical sites, to be able to touch it, see it that much closer. It's really generous, really wonderful to be here.

SAMBOLIN: For the statue's superintendent, David Luchsinger, who has lived on Liberty Island for more than three years, this moment among the most memorable.

DAVID LUCHSINGER, SUPERINTENDENT, STATUE OF LIBERTY: To be able to welcome our veterans home and welcome them here and actually get veterans up into the crown and into the observation deck is just amazing.

SAMBOLIN: Grateful construction workers saluting America's heroes on this historic visit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to give you a token of thanks first for coming out and visiting with us, but most importantly, for the service and the dedication that you've done for our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were thanking us. We should be thanking them. They are the ones that are making it possible. They're the hands that made this monument open to everyone including those with disabilities.

SAMBOLIN: Restored Lady Liberty truly representing a symbol of freedom for all to enjoy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Work on the monument is expected to be completed early next year. If you are interested in visiting the Statue of Liberty's crown, it opens on Sunday. Tickets are available online. However, demand is so high, the National Park Service says they're already sold out through the end of the year.

I still wish you luck, because, boy, what an experience. I wish you could have it with these guys, though, because that was emotional.

BERMAN: You are so lucky. I mean, you can't get in until the end of the year. I'm sure the lines are going to be like crazy for the next year or two. You got to see it exclusively before anyone else.

SAMBOLIN: But exclusively also through their eyes, especially Larry, someone who would never have access. Yes. And so that -- this is the crown and I am sticking my head outside of the crown. So I am wearing Lady Liberty's crown.

Is that not just simply amazing?

BERMAN: You really are a princess.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, please. It was really an exceptional experience, exceptional.

BERMAN: All right. It is 19 minutes after the hour. Right now, I'm very jealous.

Let's get you up-to-date on the top stories, here's Christine Romans with all the news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And nothing more American than Lady Liberty and the presidential election, right? With the race dead even, Mitt Romney and President Obama are blanketing the battleground states.

The President is traveling at a red eye from Las Vegas to Tampa, Florida, this morning. And he'll head to Richmond, Virginia. And finally, Chicago, where he'll become the first U.S. president to ever use early voting.

Romney makes three campaign stops in Ohio today, starting in Cincinnati. His wife, Ann, headlines three rallies in Florida. They're going to be putting on a lot of miles over the next week or so.

An update on a story we've been following. George Cary in Michigan, a Michigan man, we introduced to his wife Lillian died in the fungal meningitis outbreak. He is now fighting it himself. I know. Initial tests showed he wasn't infected, but he fell ill over the past weekend.

The meningitis outbreak has now sickened more than 300 people, 24 people have died. And our hopes and prayers are with him.

Now, some people barely able to outrun the flames. It's a wildfire spread across the town of Wetmore, Colorado, this morning. It's only about 15 percent contained. More than 2,000 acres burned so far. At least 14 homes have been destroyed or damaged. Hundreds have been evacuated. SAMBOLIN: I am confused about that fungal meningitis story, because they said it's not contagious. So, he must have had the injection also, or --

BERMAN: Exactly. He must have the shots, also.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BERMAN: It's widespread and it keeps on going on and on and on.

SAMBOLIN: What are the chances, huh? Two family members.

All right. Thank you so much, Christine.

Twenty-one minutes past the hour. Coming up, Apple by the numbers. Did the iPhone 5 and iPad mini translate into big earnings for the company? We'll let you know.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are up after markets closed slightly lower yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: Lots of big corporate earnings today including Apple.

So, Christine, you have a preview for us this morning.

ROMANS: I was going to tell you, first, we just heard out of the U.K., that it's out of recession. U.K. growth -- economic growth in the U.K. up 1 percent. So, we're watching that this morning. That's good news.

BERMAN: Congratulations, Britain.

ROMANS: Yes, congratulations.

So many of these European countries and the U.K. have been in recession or negative growth. So, that's some good news.

Also a Bank of America story where the government is suing Bank of America for $1 billion for --

SAMBOLIN: Look at her eye getting all bitty (ph).

ROMANS: No, I mean, that's a really -- that's going to be an interesting case to watch. I my have more on that next hour.

But watching tech earnings in particular. Zoraida just mentioned Apple. We saw Facebook yesterday. Facebook had the best day yesterday that it's had since it went public, in part because its earnings were showing some improvement on the revenue side.

Apple earnings come out after the closing bell. You know I love to show you the apple stock chart, right? Because it has been so good for many investors until recently. It's been faltering from that $700 level.

So, Apple kind of has a lot to prove after the last five years. It's up about 250 percent. So Apple kind of has a lot to prove now under Tim Cook.

Now, we do know it's been rocking the iPad sales, 17 million sold in the second quarter. Tim Cook said at the iPad mini event, two weeks ago, we sold our 100 millionth iPad.

And, of course, some tech writer just said, wow, that means they must be slowing down. A hundred million.

So we'll closely watch to say what those earnings say about how quickly things have been going for them.

And, quickly, on housing you guys, it's been recovering. You've heard me say it before. The housing recovery, foreclosures are down. Home sales and home prices are up. We've seen mortgage rates down and stay very, very low. We're going to get a new mortgage rate number today.

I want to show you quickly a map of Florida where we're seeing foreclosures rise, even as across the country they're going down. In some of the swing states, they aren't, they're going up. Look at Florida.

They're going to see some president, people who want to be president campaigning around there. Foreclosures are up in some of those big cities in Florida. So, we're going to kind of zero in on the housing market more for you in some of the swing states in the next couple days.

SAMBOLIN: Appreciate that, Christine. Thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. We're all talking about this storm this morning. The million dollar question, hurricane Sandy, where is she headed next? We'll have the latest storm track coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Two men fighting for just eight swing states. It is still anyone's race between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

SAMBOLIN: Sunk in a matter of seconds. Dramatic video of a tugboat's sudden final moments on the water.

BERMAN: A giant among men. San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval with a legendary performance on baseball's biggest stage.

SAMBOLIN: What a moment.

BERMAN: Outstanding.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us this morning. It's 31 minutes past the hour.

A shrinking election map getting even smaller this morning. Late yesterday CNN changed North Carolina from a tossup on its official electoral map to leaning towards Romney, meaning there are now just eight battleground states that are up for grabs.

BERMAN: That news comes in the middle of a 48-hour campaign blitz for President Obama where he'll be visiting a whopping eight cities between yesterday and today. He's seen here in a rally in Denver yesterday afternoon.

SAMBOLIN: And it's a home stretch and CNN political contributor Margaret Hoover and former senior Clinton adviser Richard Socarides are here to break it all down for us.

So Romney is clearly taking an edge in North Carolina, which Obama we know narrowly won back in '08. But let's put up a poll because love polls. Obama hanging on to a lead in Ohio. This new "TIME" poll still has him up by five-point fair. Ohio is critical for both of them.

Who has more paths to victory, Margaret?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: President Obama absolutely has more paths to victory. And Ohio is actually way more critical for Governor Romney than it is for President Obama. And President Obama has an edge in Ohio, not just because of that poll which, by the way, is almost within the statistical margin of error and there are other polls that show it much closer. But he has more campaign offices there. He has a better ground game there. He's been working on it for four years.

What he doesn't have in his favor is Democratic registration. Because Democratic registration has declined in the last four years and they --

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: In Ohio.

HOOVER: In Ohio. And they need all the early votes to rack it up. Remember in 2004 when the exit polls were wrong in Ohio? Why were they wrong? Because Democrats voted early and Republicans ended up voting later in the day.

BERMAN: Yes, but, on the early vote, he has a huge lead according to this "TIME" magazine poll. It's 2-1 right now in the early vote.

SAMBOLIN: Here it is.

BERMAN: Sixty to 30 percent. President Obama himself will be voting early in Illinois, the first president ever to do so, sending a message to people all around the country.

Richard --

SOCARIDES: To vote early. BERMAN: To vote early. Richard, why is this so important and what do Democrats want to do with this?

SOCARIDES: Well, the President seems to -- seems to be favored in early voting and that's because he's made -- his campaign has made a very concerted effort to get early voters to the poll and get out voters to the poll. And I think, you know, Margaret's analysis is pretty on point. I mean I think the President is winning in Ohio. He's winning or ahead in more of the swing states.

He's not conceding anything. He's working hard. He's campaigning, he's asking people for their vote. He's campaigning, you know, all the time, 18 hours a day. And that's exactly what he should be doing.

HOOVER: But let's not forget that the reason they're banking on the early voting is because they need to build up a lead. Because on election day Republicans can come out stronger especially with the decline in Democratic registration in Ohio.

SOCARIDES: Well, you know, I don't -- I don't think that that's necessarily true. I think the President is going to get the votes on election day also.

HOOVER: Spin, spin, spin.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So move on to the "Des Moines Register" and the supposedly off-the-record conversation that happened there. The editor was upset. He blogged about it. So the campaign eventually released a full transcript. We have a little interesting part of it here.

"Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."

Do you agree?

HOOVER: So here's what I love about that statement. And I -- first of all, I love the way you say Latino community.

(LAUGHTER)

Yes, the Republican Party has a lot of work to do in terms of communicating and connecting with the Hispanic community to suggest that we care, we get it, and we have policies that are going to be advantageous for the Hispanic community. On the other hand, do you notice that the President didn't say, I'm going to win because I've done anything for the Hispanic community? Instead, he said, I'm going to win because they suck. That is not a winning strategy if you're the President of the United States and you're the unifier-in-chief.

SAMBOLIN: Do you agree with that, Richard? You agree -- you agreed earlier with Margaret.

SOCARIDES: No, no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

Our agreement ended right there. I mean, listen, I don't know why the President needed -- thought he needed to say that off the records.

BERMAN: Exactly.

SOCARIDES: I mean it sounds exactly like what he's been saying all along and what we as Democrats have been saying all along. And that is that the President has a great record on issues that are important to all the minority communities. You know that is part of where he comes from, not all of where he comes from, but that is part of his experience as a person. And the Republicans just don't get it. I mean the Republicans are pushing at immigration policies that are unfair to immigrant families, that doesn't recognize our history and our heritage.

And I think that -- I think that --

HOOVER: Then why are we closing the gap in Florida? Why are Hispanics closing the gap in Florida?

SOCARIDES: Well, you know, I don't think the Republicans are going to win Florida.

HOOVER: I think not only -- I will say it right now, I think the Republicans will win Florida and the Hispanic vote will be closer in Florida than anywhere else in the country.

BLITZER: We only have two weeks to find out the answers to all these questions.

SOCARIDES: Less than two weeks.

BLITZER: Less than two weeks, to all these questions.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: You will come back.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to save that, Margaret.

HOOVER: Yes.

BLITZER: We will settle the --

HOOVER: Save that. Save that.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BLITZER: We will settle these bets. Richard Socarides, Margaret Hoover, thank you so much.

On the off-the-record, I don't think the President should never be off the record. SOCARIDES: I -- I totally agree with that.

SAMBOLIN: That was the odd part, right? That was very odd.

SOCARIDES: It's a White House staff person who made the mistake.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

So 36 minutes past the hour now and reports of two deaths because of Hurricane Sandy. One was in Jamaica, the other one was in Haiti. The storms slammed into Cuba earlier this morning as a strong Category 2 storm. It's packing a 110 mile-an-hour wind.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano joins us from Atlanta right now.

You are tracking this for us. What's the very latest?

MARCIANO: Hundred and five-mile-an-hour winds so still holding onto its strength, Zoraida, even after crossing Cuba. It's just about to emerge into the Florida straits here, the Bahamas and the Atlantic Ocean. Northerly movement at 18 miles an hour. Tremendous amount of rain of course with this. But as it gets into the open waters here, it has a chance of at least reorganizing.

We're not sure how much stronger it will get as it gets into really cooler waters, but the forecast is fairly ominous. Already seeing rain bands filter into South Florida from Miami back through Homestead, Key Largo, Key Marathon, and even back through Key West. This will continue throughout the day today and conditions will deteriorate along the Florida peninsula, obviously from south to north as we go through time.

One thing that has changed at the 5:00 a.m. update, tropical storm warnings have been posted all the way north along the east coast of Florida, up to Flagler Beach. So everyone is going to see some form of tropical storm force conditions here in the next 48 hours.

And here's forecast tract from the National Hurricane Center, hurricane status, Category 1, and then look at this. Curving this thing back, probably some hybrid as we get towards the beginning of next week. Everybody from the Del Marva up through Maine has the potential of seeing some impact from Hurricane Sandy.

Guys, back up to you.

BERMAN: And, Rob, I hear high tides on Monday could make that even worse up there?

MARCIANO: Yes. Well, they got a full moon so you got a lunar, the high tide as well. Regardless of a direct hit in this thing, the waves are going to be huge, the circulation is massive. So along the immediate shoreline up and down the east coast is going to be big problems as far as -- high surf beach erosion and certainly big-time flooding from high tides -- John.

SAMBOLIN: All that flooding. All right. You've really been following this.

BERMAN: No, this storm is a big one. It is coming to us at a very bad time.

All right. Rob Marciano, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-eight minutes past the hour. Former Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta is heading to prison in January. A judge hit him with a two-year sentence and a $5 million fine yesterday for leaking information from the Goldman boardroom to a hedge fund manager who is now serving an 11-year prison term.

BERMAN: Take a look at this video shot in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A tugboat capsizing and sinking into the harbor. Look how fast this is going down. It went down in just a few seconds. Now two people on board managed to jump off in time.

SAMBOLIN: Wow. What happened?

BERMAN: It is just sinking so fast. They don't know. The Coast Guard is going to launch an investigation into why the boat sank and why it sank so fast.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. Good thing they got off.

BERMAN: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Listen to this. The Giants' Pablo Sandoval belted three homeruns to power San Francisco to an 8-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in game one of the World Series. The Panda is just the fourth player to hit three homers in a World Series game, joining Babe Ruth, Randy Jackson, Albert Pujols. The Tigers will look to even the series tonight. Fret not, game two happens tonight.

BERMAN: It was a huge game for the Giants last night and even bigger for Pablo Sandoval.

Thirty-nine minutes after the hour right now. And he is said to be a key suspect in the murder of four Americans in Libya. And this morning he's under arrest.

Coming up, more on this man and his alleged role in the Benghazi attack.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Forty-two minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START.

We have new details this morning about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead including of course Ambassador Chris Stevens. A suspect is now in custody in Tunisia. And the U.S. will be able to question him.

CNN intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly joins us now.

And Suzanne, what do we know about the suspect and how he was caught?

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that he is Tunisian and that he was actually had left Libya and he had gone into Turkey. And Turkish officials detained him and then turned him over to Tunisian authorities. And now the U.S. is negotiating to have access to him, to be able to question him.

SAMBOLIN: And when do you think that will happen?

KELLY: It could be a matter of weeks. Something like this is a process. There are a couple of issues internally within the U.S. that need to be resolved in terms of how the FBI and the intelligence agencies are going to work together to continue to question him. And then they have to approach the Tunisian authorities. There's a process there as well. So it could be a couple of weeks.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Yesterday we reported on those e-mails that revealed the U.S. officials were aware of a possible link between the Benghazi attacks and an Islamic military group, Ansar al-Sharia. But there were new doubts on what those e-mails actually reveal. Can you clear some of that up for us?

KELLY: A lot of that has been sort of the political debate, the political spin on this, about what the White House knew and when it sort of came public with what it knew. These e-mails that we're talking about are very specific in terms of what they knew within the first 48 hours of that attack and that they knew that it was obviously a mortar attack. So that signified that there was some sort of like military-type role.

It was obviously conducted by someone who was well equipped and had the capacity to carry out something like that. Ansar al-Sharia is a group in Libya with anti-American sentiments who is very capable of carrying that out. However, in terms of whether or not the White House should have come public with that right away is a great question because a lot of those threats come in very early on as you know, but a lot of them don't reach like solid intelligence. It's more a matter of putting a puzzle together as oppose to taking one peace and running with it.

SAMBOLIN: And a lot of groups take responsibility early on as well, right? So that can cause confusion.

KELLY: They do. And then come back later sometimes and deny. So it's -- that's not really solid intelligence in my opinion in terms of what you should go public with right away.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Suzanne Kelly, we appreciate having you in house today. Thank you.

KELLY: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: And a break in the case of a Pakistani teen who defied the Taliban and almost paid with her life. That story, an update on her condition coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Good morning to you. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with our top story.

ROMANS: Good morning again, you two.

Just 12 days until America votes. The candidates are pulling out all the stop in the eight remaining battleground states. Mitt Romney is blanketing Ohio today. He'll make stops in Cincinnati, Worthington and Defiance, with a new "TIME" poll showing he trails the President by five points in the Buckeye State.

Mr. Obama campaigns today in Tampa, Florida, and Richmond, Virginia, before heading to Chicago. He'll become the first U.S. president, you guys, to vote early when he goes home to Chicago.

He fought for our rights and he got to exercise his one last time. A sad story for you this morning. World War II vet Frank Tanabe, he's died. We told you this story, right? Just last week, the terminally ill Hawaiian man cast an absentee ballot in the presidential election. This photo of him on his deathbed casting his final vote, it went viral on the Internet. His daughter said he never missed an election including this one. He was 93.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

ROMANS: And he did not want to miss his chance to vote one last time.

BERMAN: Vote, everyone.

ROMANS: It's just a beautiful story.

SAMBOLIN: It's a great legacy he leaves.

ROMANS: Yes.

A string of black bear sightings has people in and near Providence, Rhode Island, on edge. A black bear has been spotted in yards and driveways. And this video shows this black bear is on the move in Cranston. A wildlife biologist there is urging people not to approach or feed it.

SAMBOLIN: Very good advice. Very good advice.

BERMAN: Do not feed the wild, scary looking bear. Everyone. Get that?

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

BERMAN: All right.

ROMANS: Do not approach the bear.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Christine, for the warning.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Christine, very much.

It is 50 minutes after the hour right now and police in Pakistan have arrested six people in connection with the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. She is the 15-year-old girl who spoke out publicly in favor of education for Pakistani girls in defiance of the Taliban.

Malala right now is in stable condition at a hospital in Birmingham in England. And despite the arrest of the man Pakistani police consider the primary suspect is still at large.

Journalist Saima Mohsin is Islamabad with the very latest.

Good morning, Saima.

SAIMA MOHSIN, JOURNALIST: Good morning, John.

BERMAN: What do we know about the arrest right and any of the suspect on the loose?

MOHSIN: Yes. John, so far we know that six people are under arrest. They're being detained and interrogated. Those six people we believe to be key in this. I spoke to a senior police official in Swat yesterday where that attack took place. They told me that they believe that these men, all of them local men from Swat, may well have been involved in facilitating this assassination attempt in some way, playing different roles.

Let me tell you a bit more about this main suspect that we found out. A bit more detail about yesterday. His name is Atta Ullah Khan. He's just 23 years old, John. And I managed to track down a local college that he went to where he studies physics for his degree, he went home to study a masters in chemistry. And we also managed to get a photo of him. It's the first time we've seen a picture of this man, Atta Ullah Khan, who remains on the loose, as you say.

Incidentally police are also questioning. They haven't arrested but they're questioning members of his family to try and find out where exactly he is and what his involvement might have been.

BERMAN: Great work on the ground there. What can you tell us about Malala's progress in England?

MOHSIN: Well, Malala, of course, is still in hospital under careful care in Birmingham in the United Kingdom. We know that she has been able to communicate freely. Of course, everyone was holding their breath, hoping that she would be able to come out of that coma, and we understand, doctors say, she has been, as they put it, communicating freely. She stood for the first time last week and she's making what they say is a slow and steady progress.

And by the way, John, yesterday in Swat, I also went to a school where I met some schoolgirls who said Malala is an icon for them. She's brave and they'll continue to go to school in her name and honor.

BERMAN: She is an icon, I think, for everyone. Saima Mohsin, thank you very much for this great report this morning.

We have a packed hour straight ahead on EARLY START including a change to CNN's electoral map. A swing state no longer a tossup. It's going pink as the candidates storm the battleground. It's all about the ground game with just a dozen days until America votes.

SAMBOLIN: Also talk of a possible northeast super storm as Hurricane Sandy heads for the east coast. It could be on a crash course with another system which could create a monster. We'll have the latest update from the CNN Hurricane headquarters.

BERMAN: We will. Plus police on the lookout for the guy who robbed a fried chicken joint with a samurai sword. A samurai sword.

If that's not enough, first, Lady Gaga's contribution to science. Researchers at Duke honor the pop diva in a way you will just not believe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Fifty-seven minutes after the hour. John Berman here along with Zoraida Sambolin.

We are taking a look at the top CNN trends on the Web this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Well, she has draped herself in meat. You know who she is, right? Now she may have to cover herself in leaves. Botanists at Duke University have announced that they have named a new genus of fern after Lady Gaga.

BERMAN: Imagine that.

SAMBOLIN: They said they wanted to do it because of her fervent defense of equality and individual expression. Plus the fern carry a DNA sequence that spells Gaga.

BERMAN: The genus is made up of 19 separate species of fern which can be found in Central and South America, and as far North Arizona and Texas.

SAMBOLIN: Check out the picture. That was -- your favorite picture. I got it off your Facebook page.

BERMAN: My favorite, yes. It is my favorite picture of Lady Gaga. You know -- you know, you've made it when you have a fern named after you.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Fifty-seven minutes after the hour.

The usual political jokes were flying fast and furious last night on the late-night shows. But they got trumped by Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DALY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": He offered the President of the United States a charity gift of $5 million if the President would release his college transcripts. I believe we have the footage of the announcement of Trump making it.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Donald Trump called -- called President Obama and said, I'll give you $5 million, $5 million if you can release your college records and your passport. Here is $5 million, release your college records and your passport. And I said, hey, Don, I'll give you $5 million if you release that thing on your head. Just let it go. Let it run free. Gone. Go back.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": A source close to Romney just revealed that he gets a spray tan before major campaigns events. Yes. I guess that explains Romney's new Secret Service code name, the Mittuation.

Yesterday Obama visited the swing state of Ohio for the 17th time this year. Seventeen times. People there are so used to see him, now when he shows up they're, like, oh, hi, oh. Ohio?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ohio.

JAY LENO, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Experts say the entire 2012 election could come down to just eight states. The states are confusion, dismay, depression, apathy, shock, disbelief, despair and anxiety. Those are the eight states. And it has been --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now. They always catch me in the middle of something. Unbelievable.

BERMAN: President Obama and Mitt Romney in a swing state scramble. This morning one of those states leaning red, another looking blue.

SAMBOLIN: Listen to this. Hurricane Sandy may be a Halloween nightmare. The storm slams Cuba, and the northeast could be next.

BERMAN: I am watching that very closely.

Meanwhile, a stunning feat for a Giant slugger. Pablo Sandoval does something few others have ever done on the World Series stage. What a game for Sandoval.

Good morning.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Don't worry, Tigers, you still have some time. You Tigers fan.

BERMAN: Your time is running out. No, it's just one game. You can come back.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's nice to have you this morning. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East --