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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Sandy's Aftermath; Massive Power Outages; Recovery Will Be "A Mammoth Job"; Sandy Delivers "October Surprise"; Hoboken Flooded; Candidates Back on Trail; JFK and Newark Airports to Reopen

Aired October 31, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people are talking. What will Star Wars 7 through 9 look like?

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of people are talking.

BERMAN: A lot of boy people I know are talking. It will start in 2015 and release a new film every two years.

SAMBOLIN: I have to tell you folks that you can't see this because we were on a lot of video there. He did this all off the top of his head. You own that story. You're very excited about this.

BERMAN: I'm actually our senior "Star Wars" reporter at CNN.

SAMBOLIN: All right, EARLY START continues right now.

BERMAN: Sandy's stunning aftermath, devastation along the Jersey Shore. Homes and lives wiped away.

SAMBOLIN: Rescue operations are still under way as some remain trapped in water-swamped homes.

BERMAN: New York City struggling to recover, millions still without power and the flooded subway system remains shut down.

SAMBOLIN: More than 80 homes in a tight-knit neighborhood in Queens, New York, burned to the ground. Take a look at those pictures. Amazingly, though, just three minor injuries.

BERMAN: And President Obama gets a firsthand look today at the destruction as he heads to New Jersey. He will tour the Jersey Shore.

SAMBOLIN: The human toll from Sandy, 33 people killed in the United States, 6.6 million customers remain without power. The total cost of territory damage and lost business estimated between $10 billion and $20 billion.

Good morning to you and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's 6:01 in the East. A lot to talk about this morning.

SAMBOLIN: So up first, we have life after Sandy. New Jersey bore the brunt of the hurricane turned superstorm. People along the Jersey Shore suffered what Governor Christie calls unthinkable devastation. You're looking at the pictures there. That's what he's referring to.

In just a few hours, President Obama will join the governor for a firsthand look at the damaged areas in the Garden State. The president has promised a can-do attitude when it comes to federal assistance.

Sandra Endo is live in Atlantic City where Sandy made landfall. Good morning, Sandra. Sandra, Governor Christie has been praising Obama's response --

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. So let's start here with Chris Christie's response here. He has been praising President Obama. Something we typically don't hear.

ENDO: That's right. And Governor Christie is saying this is a bipartisan issue. This is not about politics because take a look. We're here on a main street in Atlantic City. Several blocks from the waterfront of this bayside community and you can see a kayak was washed ashore because of the storm.

And this is just only a little bit of the damage we've been seeing. Take a look at this. This is a small houseboat that was torn from the pier. You could see the pilings it was attached to, and it was just swept into the middle of this intersection here on the street.

And this is the type of damage and destruction, Zoraida, that the president will see firsthand when he comes here later this afternoon to tour this damage. He will talk to first responders and victims of the storm.

And he spent three days off the campaign trail, because of the storm, and now he has to walk a fine line of any sitting president, to console families who have felt the impact of the storm, while making it not look like merely a photo-op.

As you mention, it's interesting to note that he'll be joined by staunch Republican and Mitt Romney supporter Governor Chris Christie, who actually praised President Obama for the federal response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: This is the livelihood of the people in my state and when the president does things that deserve praise, I will give him praise. And when the president does things that deserve scorn, I'll give him scorn. And I think people know that about me. But I am not going to play politics with these issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ENDO: Again, Governor Christie saying this is all about just trying to get New Jersey back on its feet, because six people died in this state, 2.6 million people are without power.

This is an area that is struggling to just dig out from under the flood, and wind damage, and in this area alone, now police are saying they're worried about looting and it's been under curfew, at least for the last couple of nights -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it's certainly something we don't want to politicize. Sandra Endo live for us in Atlantic City. Thank you for that this morning.

BERMAN: In Sandy's wake, more than 6.5 million people are still without electricity, close to 2 million of them in New York. Flooded subways mean the transportation is virtually at a standstill. And just so you know what this means if you don't live in New York City, millions and millions and millions of New Yorkers, the subways are the only way to get around.

Now what you're looking at right there, immense property damage and destruction including at least 80 homes consumed by fire in Queens. The recovery from Superstorm Sandy will be as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls it, a mammoth job, mammoth.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. He joins us live this morning. Rob, there is serious black right there behind you, by the way, because there is no power down where you are. So is there much to clean up.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: There is. And you go south of 29th Street it goes dark. On the east side, if you go south of 39th Street, it goes dark. We knew the storm was coming. Utility companies were preparing for it. But you almost don't believe it until you see it, right? Incredible storm surge took these substations out that have knocked out power across Lower Manhattan and across much of New York, not to mention what's going on across the northeast.

Just down the road from here where I stand is actually the headquarters of Con Edison, which by the way has power, if you need to charge your phone go in there. We went to the situation room and tracked down the incident commander to get a feel for just what it takes to get this city back online and what we can expect going forward. Here's what he had to say about the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MIKSAD, SENIOR VP, CONED: It was more -- it was sort of on steroids and I would have never expected it. I mean, this is New York City. This is not Florida or North Carolina. We'd have never expected to have two years in a row with this kind of damage to our system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: Here's what they didn't expect, a 13.8 foot storm surge. The substation that pretty much controls all of Lower Manhattan is on the east river and that is built to withstand a 12.6 foot storm surge. That alone would be historic, but this blew that out of the water. They've got to dry that out. It's corrosive. Obviously all the infrastructure is underground, which is great for everything, except flooding which is what happened.

So he estimates two to four days before all of Lower Manhattan is back on power. There are some spots, including the New York Stock Exchange, they are back on power.

Outside of New York in the outer boroughs and west of the county, maybe as much as ten days before all those areas are back online, truly remarkable stuff -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Rob Marciano down in Chelsea and the subways, it could be a week. Thanks a lot, Rob.

SAMBOLIN: It's 6 minutes past the hour. The election just six days away, the October surprise anticipated by many hasn't come from a shadowy Super PAC, but it may have been delivered this week by Superstorm Sandy.

After a brief break from politics, the candidates will be back in the final battlegrounds. Mitt Romney has three stops in Florida today. The president resumes campaigning tomorrow with a rescheduled stop in Wisconsin.

CNN's political editor Paul Steinhauser is live from Washington for us. And, Paul, where does the race stand right now? Give us the overview and perspective?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes, as you mentioned, Sandy basically froze the campaign in time, but here's where it stands right now. Take a look at this.

Nationally, there have been eight polls, live operators, nonpartisan polls over the last nine days, basically after the last presidential debate. There you go, CNN poll of polls, we average them all together and basically it is a dead heat. Mitt Romney at 48 percent, the president at 47 percent among likely voters.

But Zoraida, you know and I know the battle for the White House is a battle for the states and their electoral votes. Take a look at these numbers brand new out this morning from Quinnipiac University/CBS News/"New York Times."

On the left, Ohio, such an important battleground state, you could see the president with a five-point advantage, but within the sampling error. We've seen other polls show the president with leads or advantages anywhere from about 2 to 4 points.

Basically, it's dead heats in Florida and Virginia, two other incredibly critical battleground states -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And, Paul, in the wake of Sandy a lot of attention on Romney's position on FEMA, as well. He dodged the question in Ohio yesterday. What can you tell us about that?

STEINHAUSER: Well, Democrats in the Obama campaign are pointing back to some comments that Mitt Romney made way back in June of 2011 at a CNN debate. Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire moderated by our John King. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: FEMA's about to run out of money. There are some people do it by a case by case basis. Some people who say maybe we're learning a lesson here the states should take on more of this. How do you deal with something like that?

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: Yesterday, Mitt Romney was in Ohio. He took a campaign event and he converted it into a disaster relief event getting volunteers to give goods for people hurt by the storm.

Mitt Romney at that event was asked a number of times by reporters what he would do with FEMA. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, what should FEMA's role be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you were president?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, you've been asked 14 times today what you'd do with FEMA. What's your response? Why won't you answer questions about it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: No answer there for Mitt Romney. His campaign tells us that they believe that the governor believes that the states should be in charge of disaster relief -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: We were talking to our political panel about this earlier and the big question is why doesn't he just answer the question, right? Could that hurt him? Paul Steinhauser live in Washington for us. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, almost 10 minutes after the hour right now. Hoboken, New Jersey, was left flooded out by Sandy. As many as half of the city residents are stranded by floodwaters. The National guard has arrived to help with rescues and deliver supplies. We will tell you there live coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Right across the Hudson River from New York City is Hoboken, New Jersey, is flooded out. The city's mayor pleaded for help from the National Guard and she got her wish. The first guard members arrived late last night.

The National Guard is using its heavy equipment to deliver supplies and help rescue stranded residents. They need the help. Meteorologist Bob Van Dillen is live in Hoboken with more. Bob, how does it look?

BOB VAN DILLEN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, John, good morning to you. Let me show you what's going on. The water actually has come down just a little bit from last night. Look at the flooding. You see the exact line where it was at its highest point.

You can see that brown smudge line up there and the consistency of the water is really bad. It's putrid. You can smell the fuel mixing in with sewage, debris, you've got the fuel.

The only thing I can really equate that water to, people are actually walking through it believe it or not, to get to their places, it's just like that star wars scene, the trash compactor water where the monster comes up and looks around, that's exactly what it looks like. It's unreal.

Even getting here this morning was a pain in the neck. The National Guard came in, which was great, but they had all kind of road closures still due to water. So there's no power in the city. We're trying to weave in and out of the cities to get here safely.

There are live wires down that are actually down. Even getting here from Newark, we stayed right by the airport, coming over the Pulaski Skyway. Usually you can see Manhattan it's lit up beautiful, Newark on your left side beautifully.

Newark is pitch black. No lights on. The southern tip of Manhattan totally black as well and no cars on the road. It was absolutely really terrifying coming in here this morning because I've never seen it like that -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Bob Van Dillen in Hoboken.

There's a great reminder. It's not just the water level, it's sanitation and hygiene. Water is very, very dangerous. Thanks a lot, Bob.

VAN DILLEN: Right.

SAMBOLIN: Fifteen minutes past the hour.

Another hard-hit area, the Jersey Shore. Homes, beaches, the boardwalk, amusement parks, suffering a lot of damage.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in a tour over the Jersey Shore, described the devastation as unthinkable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Let me start with I just never thought I would see what I saw today, ever. We started in Belmar when I walked on the boardwalk in Belmar this summer. It's gone. Not there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That's just incredible.

And joining us on the phone is a representative from that area. We have Congressman Frank Pallone this morning.

Are you there, sir?

REP. FRANK PALLONE, (D) NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Yes.

SAMBOLIN: I know you're incredibly busy, so I really appreciate you taking the time this morning to spend with us. Let's start with any ongoing search and rescue missions. Are there any ongoing right now that you're aware of?

PALLONE: Well, as of yesterday, you know, I was going around until about I guess 7:00 at night. There were still efforts. Some of the towns, you know, trying to find out if there were people left in their homes. Particularly, you know, in places that had a lot of devastation.

I mean, there were people missing. But it could very well be that they just evacuated them and they couldn't be found. So, I think on the whole, you know, the emergency management people did a good job of evacuating people and getting people out, and for the most part, people are, you know, going back to their homes if the homes were still there. Of course, many people have lost their homes and couldn't go back.

SAMBOLIN: I know that it's really tough to assess the situation fully right now but do we know anything about the people that are still without power and when, perhaps, that will be restored for them?

PALLONE: Well, it could be, you know, they're saying it could take a week or even longer. But I'm hoping that for many people it will be sooner than that. But I think that one of the things that you mentioned, and I would stress again, is you know, we have to be very careful when people go back or, you know, people leave their houses, about downed power lines and gas lines that are broken, as well as many situations where you could smell the gas, and, of course, the utility people are working on this.

But people have to be extremely careful because there are just a lot of downed power lines and broken gas lines throughout the shore area.

SAMBOLIN: And, Congressman, I don't know if you're watching right now but we were just taking a look at the massive rescue effort there. You know, somebody was carrying somebody on their back to safety.

PALLONE: Oh, that was incredible.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

PALLONE: You know, when I saw the emergency management people and what they were doing and risking their own lives in many cases to rescue people, they were just wonderful. They just went in and do whatever they could to get people out.

SAMBOLIN: Just an incredible effort. Congressman Pallone, we so appreciate you spending some time with us this morning. We wish you a great deal of luck there as well. Thank you.

PALLONE: Well, thank you so much.

BERMAN: It's like something out of the 1970s. Gas is suddenly hard to get. You have to see these lines in New Jersey and storm ravaged areas really feeling it, lining up for gas. The lines and more information, we'll have it all coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 22 minutes past the hour. We are minding your business this morning.

People living in the path of destruction from hurricane Sandy not only have to deal with the damage for their homes but also long lines for gas to fill up their cars.

BERMAN: These are some tough pictures to look at.

Christine Romans, what's going on with these lines?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we'll see you some pictures from New Jersey yesterday. I mean, these are folks waiting in line to fill up, you know, containers of gas, fill up their cars with gas, a couple things happening here, especially New Jersey with no rail service anymore. You've got no public transportation, people want to make sure they definitely have a full tank gas, right?

There's also people worried that there are going to be supply disruptions because the refineries are down. But those are coming back online, I can report to you. And also, look, you got to fill up gas cans for your chainsaws, for, you know, whatever. So people are just trying to make sure they have energy.

A couple of experts we talked to said these are going to be pockets of concerns about shortages, but don't worry about real shortages at all there. You're going to be seeing more of that. But don't get too concerned. Gas price is actually falling a little bit right now.

I can't predict where they're going to go next, but gas prices have been falling a little bit.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Another big news: stock market is finally reopening.

ROMANS: Finally. After two days the New York Stock Exchange will reopen. The NASDAQ today at 9:30. Futures are still a little bit higher, a lot to process. You got all these different moving sectors probably because of the storm damage, right? All of the obvious movers. You've got earnings still coming through. And you've got a jobs report on Friday, and you've got an election on Tuesday.

All I have to say, it's really kind of a treacherous time right now for investors. I expect you're going to see some really big volume. It's been shut for two days, and a really important time of the calendar. So we'll be watching all of those sectors very closely.

BERMAN: I have to say. I listen to everything you say very, very carefully. You say one thing over the last 24 hours. The first time I heard you say it about insurance. I picked up the phone and I called my wife immediately.

ROMANS: Yes. OK. So you need to find out if you have something called a hurricane deductible. And it's probably, probably going to kick in for you. Your deductible -- because Sandy landed as a hurricane, your deductible will likely be a percentage of the value of your home, not the $500 or $1,000 or $5,000 you might be expecting.

Check the very first page of your insurance policy. The declarations part, to find out what your hurricane deductible is. After hurricane Andrew back in 1992, you guys, the insurance companies put in these clauses that trigger higher deductibles if a storm makes landfall as a hurricane.

Now, this can vary by state, by policy, by company, how far you are from the shore. Sometimes, it's a category two hurricane that triggers the deductible. So, check.

But, generally, you pay more out of pocket than if your house were slammed by your run of the mill hailstorm or a thunderstorm. Let me give you an example. Typical $300,000 house with a $500 standard deductible, right? It could have a hurricane deductible of up to 5 percent of the value of the home.

SAMBOLIN: Good gracious.

ROMANS: That means your out of pocket cost is not $500, the deductible you think it is, it's $15,000.

Eighteen states, District of Columbia, they have hurricane deductibles. Every state that was hit by Sandy has them.

Can I tell you about your car, too, quickly?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, please?

ROMANS: Your car is covered under your car insurance. If your car is flooded out, wind damage, that's under your car insurance. Comprehensive car insurance will cover it. If you have liability only --

SAMBOLIN: Out of luck.

ROMANS: -- you're out of luck.

SAMBOLIN: OK. What is the one thing that we need to know today other than that? ROMANS: Bring your patience everywhere, whether you're getting gas, and bring your paperwork everywhere if you're trying to deal with insurance companies. I'm telling you, there are thousands of insurance adjusters who are all around the storm zone right now just waiting for the go-ahead to get in. I talked to people yesterday who actually had an adjuster yesterday already on site.

SAMBOLIN: No way.

ROMANS: Yes, in New Jersey.

So, be prepared. Be patient. Bring your paperwork and we'll all get through this.

SAMBOLIN: And something you told me yesterday that I thought was very valuable: don't start any work until you do have that adjuster out.

ROMANS: Yes, make sure you talk to the insurance company before you give any work, give anybody money.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

Twenty-six minutes past the hour. Still ahead on EARLY START: the recovery from Sandy begins in hard-hit New Jersey with some people still in harm's way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: The damage from Sandy in New Jersey simply devastating. Homes and lives wiped away along the shore.

BERMAN: Boats being deployed to rescue people who remain trapped in water-swamped homes.

SAMBOLIN: In New York City, the buses are back. But the subways are nowhere near repair yet. Hundreds of thousands are still without power. And this is affecting millions of lives, because people cannot get in to work. And even if they do live here, they can't get from one side of town to the other without walking.

BERMAN: More than 80 homes in a beachfront neighborhood in Queens burned to the ground during the storm, but only three minor injuries reported there.

SAMBOLIN: President Obama visits New Jersey today for a firsthand look at all of the destruction there.

BERMAN: The human toll from Sandy, 33 people killed in the United States, 6.6 million customers, that's a lot, remain without power right now. The total cost of property damage and lost business estimated between $10 billion and $20 billion.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's nice to have you with us. It is 30 minutes past the hour. BERMAN: There is unimaginable devastation in New Jersey. Officials there still trying to get a handle on the scope of the damage left behind by this Superstorm Sandy. In the Atlantic City area, where Sandy made landfall, entire neighborhoods are buried by sand and debris.

And in Hoboken, across the river from Manhattan they called in the National Guard to assist with evacuation. And in Bergen County where a levee breach left hundreds of homes submerged, the situation remains desperate. About 1,000 people have been rescued already and many more are still trapped.

CNN's Brian Todd joins us from the scene there where they're doing those rescues.

And, Brian, what's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, rescue teams are set to fan out again this morning. At first light, they're going to be just kind of going around these streets trying to see if anyone still needs help. They're going to get some help naturally because the floodwaters have started to recede.

On this street alone, the waters have receded pretty drastically just from where they were where I was standing an hour and a half ago. So, some of the water receding. This is going to be a day when people will come back to their homes in these areas, seeing if their habitable. Seeing what the damage is. It's going to be a heartbreaking day for thousands of people in the three towns.

This is -- the town where I am, Moonachie. There was Little Ferry that got affected by that breach, and also the town of Carlstadt. I talked to two residents of those towns yesterday, of Moonachie, actually two elderly residents, Grace Pascuale (ph) and Mildred Schwartz (ph). Both of them have lived here for a long, long time, and they talked about just the horrific story of what happened when that levee breached and this town was flooded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen anything like this ever.

TODD: Can you describe what happened when the water came?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were sleeping. My daughter and I, all of a sudden the water came in like a river.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God I got out of there. My kitchens are full. So -- and then my living room is full. So I lost everything -- my sofa, my -- everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So for those ladies and thousands of others, today is a day where they're going to come back to these homes to see what's happened there, they can repair any of the damages, if the homes are even habitable at this point. Luckily, though, John, we've had no reports of fatalities in any of these three towns that were affected. Some minor injuries but no fatalities.

BERMAN: All right. Brian, the damage is still being assessed, obviously. We're just beginning to get a picture.

But what do you know about the overall fallout there?

TODD: Well, it's going to be a lot of economic fallout. I mean, you know, because businesses are damaged. There's a firehouse that was flooded out just a short way from here, about a block and a half from here.

You know, I talked to the county executive, the Bergen County executive, Kathleen Donovan, yesterday, she was just coming from some of the areas to assess some of the damage while the rescues were still going on yesterday, when I talked to her. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN DONOVAN, BERGEN COUNTY EXECUTIVE: If you've ever seen the aftermath of the flood, it's all the debris that's left behind. It's people who are in misery because they didn't expect it. It was not something that anyone ever had been through, anybody who is alive today. So, it was totally unexpected. It was scary. It was 1:00 in the morning. It was raining and high winds all day long. They had just been through a terrible ordeal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And to make matters worse yesterday, there was a second high tide from the Hackensack River, those are the waters that actually breached the berm near the Hackensack River, the tidal river. It was a second high tide from that river that came in last evening. So that made matters worse here, John. But the water now starting to recede, thankfully and I'm just seeing cars coming in on the main drag over here. People are just starting to filter back into town to assess damage.

BERMAN: All right. Brian Todd live in Moonachie, New Jersey -- thank you so much for joining us this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-four minutes past the hour.

It's not a campaign event but President Obama's visit today to storm- ravaged New Jersey will likely dominate the presidential campaign.

BERMAN: He'll tour one of the state's hardest-hit areas with New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie. He was, of course, one of Mitt Romney's top supporters.

CNN's Dan Lothian is live in Washington. And, Dan, what do we expect the president's message to the storm victims will be today?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the message will be much like what we heard yesterday, that if you're one of these affected areas, whether it's in the state of New Jersey or New York or some of the other states where the storm came through, whatever you need from the federal government, you'll get it. No bureaucracy, no red tape, no excuses.

The president even leaning on federal agencies, saying that they should explore all options in order to make sure that whatever is needed, those recourses will get to the destination as quickly as possible. But also the president today will be consoler in chief, if you will, talking about how America has the back of those who have been impacted by the storm. How America will help you get back on their feet. And you heard from the president yesterday, already praising those who jumped in to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: During the darkness of the storm, I think we also saw what's brightest in America. I think all of us obviously been shocked by the force of Mother Nature, as we watched it on television. At the same time, we've also seen nurses at NYU hospitals carrying fragile newborns to safety. We've seen incredibly brave firefighters in Queens, waist deep in water, battling infernos, rescuing people in boats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: The White House has been working very hard to show that the president has been on top of this, holding various video conferences, releasing a couple of photos of the president in the Situation Room, getting briefings. Yes, this is all part of his job, but we're just a few days away from Election Day, and the White House understands the politics of this, as well -- John, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Dan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been actually praising the president, something that we don't often hear. He's been saying that the work that he's doing is outstanding. What can you tell us about that?

LOTHIAN: That's right. This is someone who's been a vocal critic of the president but he did point out not only that the president has been doing a good job but that the overall administration has been helping out.

As you know, the president did declare a state of emergency for the state of New Jersey, New York, and several other states, and that a disaster declaration, as well, the president signed that. And so, Governor Christie praising the president and the administration.

Take a listen to what he has to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Piers, this is for the people in my state. And when the president does things that deserve praise I will give him praise. And when the president does things that deserve scorn, I'll give him scorn. I think people know that about me. But I'm not going to play politics with this issue. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Governor Christie said that the president has spoken with him at least three times by phone. He, of course, will be joining the president on that tour when President Obama heads to New Jersey later today to see the damage up close.

SAMBOLIN: All right, Dan Lothian live in Washington, D.C. for us, thank you. Nice to see you.

BERMAN: And after something of a hiatus for the storm, both President Obama and Mitt Romney will be back on the campaign trail by the end of the week. Mitt Romney is back on the trail today.

SAMBOLIN: That is correct, let's bring back former senior adviser to President Clinton and newyorker.com writer Richard Socarides, and CNN contributor and columnist for TheBlaze.com, Will Cain.

So both candidates back on the trail this week. How do you think the storms will affect the race? And you know the early voting in particular, Will?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I don't know that it will have any big impact logistically, Zoraida, on how the election plays out. Most of the early voting states didn't have in-person early voting anyway. The states are affected by this storm. So, I don't think it's going to have any big effect on the election.

I will say this, you know, you talk about a hiatus, both of you mentioned it, John and Zoraida. I think it's a little bit of a healthy hiatus. I mean, obviously, we're not talking about the storm being a good thing. But to stop the constant cycle of did you hear this gaffe, and oh, my gosh on the campaign trail allowed you to step back for a moment, remember real life and ask yourself, what's really important regarding the votes you're going to make a week from now?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: That's a good point.

And I hope, you know -- we certainly hope it doesn't impact actual voting, right? I mean, it's too soon to tell and we don't know how quickly some of these areas are going to recover. But if you're in a disaster area, it may by next Tuesday be hard to go vote. So, we hope that doesn't happen.

Also I would agree with Will, I think it's going to -- I think the rhetoric is going to be slightly less sharp. And I think people, and the candidates, will have to adjust. I think at the very end, it usually gets very contentious. But I think it will be slightly softer, and you know, we've never had this before so we'll have to see what happens.

BERMAN: What about they were saying give the president a chance to look presidential. Will that matter?

SOCARIDES: Well, you know, I think that the people expect the president to do his job. And I think people will expect Governor Romney to do his job, which is to be a candidate at this point. It was interesting with Bill Clinton, when I worked with Bill Clinton, if there was a hurricane, if there was a tornado, he was always out there and people criticized him for being a little bit too much in that sort of arena.

But he was a governor. He was used to this. And he thought it was part of his job as president to be out there consoling people. I think President Obama feels the same way.

BERMAN: I just want to ask quickly, now, we've got all this feel-good talk about coming together and whatnot, let's get back down to politics here.

SOCARIDES: All right.

BERMAN: We have the swing state polls, and I can't not talk about -- Ohio, Virginia, Florida, the Ohio number shows the president on top, 50-45. Florida and Virginia, really, really tight here.

Are we getting any signs about where this is going next Tuesday from these swing state polls, Will?

CAIN: I don't know, John. I mean, I don't have a crystal ball and read into these polls. I will say this and you had mentioned it this morning. That Ohio poll, these Ohio polls have consistently shown a lead for President Obama, anywhere from I think two to five points. What does that tell us about what Ohio will look like next week? I don't know.

But whatever happens there, whatever happens in Ohio, will have huge ramifications. We all know Ohio is the most important state out of the presidential election turns out.

SOCARIDES: It's going to be a very close election by all signs. Even though I think President Obama has a slight edge, he's slightly ahead as an incumbent, you would expect that. But I think it's very important for everybody to go out and vote.

SAMBOLIN: I'm going to go back to the storm Sandy here, and something that's a little controversial that's coming up. And that is global warming. Because I'd like both of your perspectives on that.

New York Governor Cuomo suggesting the reason the natural disasters might be the result of climate change. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. Anyone, that's not a political statement, that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think, is denying reality. We have a new reality when it comes to these weather patterns. We have an old infrastructure and we have old systems. And that is not a good combination.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SAMBOLIN: So he's joined by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Vice President Al Gore, in suggesting, you know, this correlation. What do you think?

CAIN: I think it's absurd. I think that climate change activists make an argument, and I think it's a fair one, that when someone who denies manmade climate change points to, well this was a cold summer in Florida, you know, reconcile that with global climate change, like that's anecdotal and it's nonsense.

This, by the same logic, is anecdotal and it's nonsense. You cannot point to one storm and go, well, this is clearly climate change now. This is not how science works.

SOCARIDES: You can't point to one storm, because there've been serious storms historically in the past. But, I think it's also undeniable that our climate is changing. I mean, science has proven that.

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: Temperatures overall and so forth.

So, I think that it's undeniable that what we are doing as people to the environment is changing the way our climate impacts us. And we're going to have to take this very seriously. And that's why it's important that government acts responsibly to regulate environmental issues.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Richard Socarides, Will Cain -- thanks for chiming in this morning. We really appreciate it.

BERMAN: And still ahead, the travel chaos caused by Sandy. So much of it, one major New York airport still under water.

SAMBOLIN: Can you believe it? Look at that.

BERMAN: CNN's Richard Quest will have all of that information for us and what you can look for today.

SAMBOLIN: And when will it reopen, right?

BERMAN: Will it reopen? You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Forty-six minutes past the hour. Soledad is joining us with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT".

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We are assessing the damage this morning on "STARTING POINT". Millions of people don't have power this morning. Entire communities underwater, under sand in some cases. We'll have the very latest on recovery efforts following Superstorm Sandy's wrath. We've got reporters a;l over the story, New York and New Jersey. We'll talk with the mayor of Newark; Cory booker is going to join us - Newark, New Jersey, of course. The governor of New York George Pataki, the former governor, will be joining us. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, he'll be joining us as well.

Dozens of homes were burned to the ground, many more partially burned in a Queens New York neighborhood. We were talking about this story as breaking news yesterday. This morning we'll talk to a man who lived in his home for 35 years. His kids live nearby. He lost everything in this disastrous fire, as did his neighbors. We'll talk about what happens as they rebuild.

President Obama is going to get a look at the damage himself just days before the election. He'll tour the flood zones in New Jersey with someone he's often at odds with, as we were talking about earlier this morning, Governor Chris Christie. He says, listen, I call them as I see them. Sometimes I'll praise him, sometimes I won't. We'll talk with Jen Psaki from the Obama campaign about what the president's plans are today. That's all ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT". We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: All right, fantastic.

Superstorm Sandy brought air and ground traffic to a halt, A grinding halt. Two of the three major New York airports are reopening but look at LaGuardia. Closed. Still. Due to flooding. Who knows when, if it will open any time soon.

CNN's Richard Quest has the gloomy traffic picture for us. He is live this morning in Atlanta. Hey, Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you from the CNN center. Yes, we have the three major airports still closed of New York, JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark. But as you said, the better news, perhaps putting a bit of a smile, is that Newark and Kennedy are to reopen. Kennedy opens not until lunch time, that's about four hours from now, but Newark opens in just ten minutes from now.

So what does that mean? Well, if you look at the latest explorer, you can see these are Jetblue planes. Most of them are Jetblue. That's Jetblue from Orlando heading up, because what happened was, the airlines got permission to start bringing the flights in. If you don't bring them in, you can't send them out. And since all the airlines evacuated the aircraft, the planes are now slowly but surely coming back in. All these planes are the ones that are heading back to Kennedy at the moment.

As for LaGuardia, well, that remains a very sorry state of affairs and for good reason. Just as you've been showing, the sheer amount of water that you can now see the runways are underneath and the infrastructure, it's -- nobody's even putting a time or a date when LaGuardia could perhaps even be reopened.

If you're traveling by the train, these are the disruptions that you'll want to notice. New York MTA we know about, of course, you've been covering in detail. Boston is restored. Philadelphia is restored. And Washington as well. But if you need to get from A to B and the plane can't take you, well, what about Amtrak? Partially restored. The rule for Amtrak seems to be, north of New York, OK. South of New York, not bad. If you're going 'round New York, you've got problems. That's the way the travel looks this morning in the northeast.

BERMAN: All right, Richard Quest down in Atlanta. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

SAMBOLIN: That is bad news for LaGuardia.

BERMAN: Not good.

SAMBOLIN: Ahead on EARLY START, the long road to recovery for the northeast. Though the northeast is struggling to cope with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The latest on Superstorm Sandy, President Obama will be in New Jersey today to get a firsthand look at the devastation. The storm is now blamed for at least 33 deaths across the East Coast, 22 of them here in New York. 6.6 million people do not have electricity across 15 states and Washington, D.C. New York subways flooded. The buses will run at regular routes today. That's a little bit of good news.

SAMBOLIN: Every vote counts, especially during this presidential election. We have some early voters to share their stories. The issues that matter most to them, who they voted for and we also wanted to know why. We are calling them votergraphs.

And first up a Romney voter, Byron Thomas, he's on the right pictured with Republican South Carolina lawmaker, Congressman Tim Scott. The issues he cares about are abortion and gay marriage.

And this is an Obama voter, Amanda Renfrew. She says she voted early because she has two kids and didn't want to forget to do it. So her big issue, affordable health care.

So send us your votergraph. The address, CNN.com/earlystart. We love hearing from you. And today's Best Advice still coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Just a few minutes left, as always we wrap it up with Best Advice.

SAMBOLIN: Here's Christine.

ROMANS: And today we hear from "Dawson's Creek" actor James Van Der Beek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES VAN DER BEEK, ACTOR: Best advice I've ever received is don't ever be afraid to ask for help. In fact, ask for help even if it makes you uncomfortable to ask for help. By pretending that you know everything, you're closing yourself off to the expertise and years of experience of all the people around you. And I think it's so natural to try to make it seem like you know what you're doing, and there's something to be said for swagger, for sure. But it took me awhile to realize that the people who ask for help get really, really good advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And I have a big tree in my backyard. I was wondering if you guys could both come over this afternoon and help me with that?

BERMAN: Don't be afraid to ask for help. You know who you should ask? Ask James Van Der Beek. Let's see if he comes over and help you.

SAMBOLIN: I will. Can I have some help? Closing the show?

BERMAN: Here's your help. That is all for EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

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