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Three Days Since Sandy; Five Days Until Election, Candidates Back on Trail; LaGuardia Opens Today; New York Getting Back on Track; The Religious Vote in Iowa

Aired November 1, 2012 - 05:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in shock. Everybody is in shock. We never thought it would be this bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no words to put on what happened here, but we've got to start over.


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Three days since Sandy and storm victims are still reeling and they are struggling to recover.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Five days until the election. Both candidates back on the road in the final battleground states.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you this morning. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We begin with the latest on the aftermath of the superstorm Hurricane Sandy. New York City is very slowly attempting to inch back to normal. Some subways and most buses are up and running again, and they are free of charge. But most of Lower Manhattan still has no power and temperatures are dipping into the 30s and 40s.

BERMAN: And there are new heartbreaking pictures as long the Jersey Shore barrier islands. Houses picked up by the force of the ocean, some just buried in the sand. Governor Chris Christie who toured the destruction with President Obama saying some parts of the shore might never look the same again.

SAMBOLIN: And the storm's death toll has now reached 124 people with 56 of those in the United States, at least 28 in New York. And close to 5 million customers are still waiting for the power to come back on.

BERMAN: CNN has the entire disaster zone covered this morning. Our correspondents spanned out across Lower Manhattan and all up and down the Jersey Shore.

SAMBOLIN: And, first, the economic capital of our country is slowly getting back to normal this morning even while facing extreme damage, power outages and people having to walk for hours just to get to work.

Meantime, another hospital lost generator power. This was in Lower Manhattan. Right now, hundreds of people are being pushed out of Bellevue after hundreds of others were evacuated yesterday.

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live at Bellevue. But, first, we are going to go to Rob Marciano. He is at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Rob, Governor Cuomo has declared a transportation emergency. So that means there will be no fares for subways, trains and buses, but many of the bus and subway lines are still not up and running yet. So how limited is transportation now?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I can tell you from what we witnessed yesterday, it's very limited. For one thing, the buses don't run at night -- at least south of 23rd -- because it's too dark and dangerous. You come down here in the middle of the night and you can't see anybody or anything, let alone somebody crossing the street. So that's a dangerous situation.

Buses that are coming up from downtown, what we saw yesterday, by the time, they got to 14th Street, they were completely jammed. They couldn't even stop to pick up more passengers. So forget about the free fares, we need more buses because the people riding underground are now transporting themselves above ground.

Look at this video near the Queensboro Bridge of people shoving each other, almost getting violent in desperate station to get to and from. Some of these that I talked to were desperate to get to work in fear that they might be fired if they couldn't get there. So, that's the kind of thing that we're dealing with here with the buses.

The subway lines, 14 of 23 lines will be running today but nothing south of 34th Street obviously because the power is out and some of those tunnels are still flooded. All the tunnels with the exception of one out of the island are flooded so they're closed and if you're going over the bridges, all but the G.W. Bridge, you have three per car, because it was absolutely gridlock from people trying to get to and from with their own vehicles. So that's how they're going to try to alleviate that today, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So, Rob, let's talk about that lack of power that you've been mentioning. It's still a vertical blackout below 25th Street. Millions without electricity and water. What's the latest on that?

MARCIANO: Status quo, we're two days into this. So, now, another two days before this power down here is restored. So by the weekend, hopefully, outside of here across the eastern boroughs and up to Westchester County could be as long as into next week.

So, we visited some people yesterday across some of the public housing and on the west side, boy, they had it rough, not only power but no water, as well. They're going to fire hydrants to try to get water in five gallon buckets and lugging them up 15 flights of stairs -- really grueling situation.

Here's what some had to say about what's going on with them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has just happened out of the blue. They shut the water down so we have no water, no light and we got to food. So it's like -- it's really, really now a desperate situation.


MARCIANO: And to add insult to injury, over the next couple of days, temperatures are going to drop. It's going to get colder behind Sandy, into the 30s for overnight lows and only 40s for daytime highs through the weekend. So staying warm will be an issue too -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, this could be another looming crisis for us. Rob Marciano, thank you.

BERMAN: Just one more thing to worry about.

Back now to the painstaking transfer of more than 700 patients out of New York's flagship public hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center. Evacuations going on at this very moment. Flooding wiped out fuel pumps in the hospital's basement which was supposed to power the generators. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been following the transfer since it began. He's at Bellevue right now.

And, Sanjay, I do understand evacuations back on this morning. What's the latest?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, we were here to just past 11:00 and back here around 3:30 in the morning and you probably can't see this very well, John. There's probably about 50 ambulances lined up still along the streets. So they told us the evacuations will probably take until about noon today. They are working around the clock to get that done.

Just in terms of medical triage and this may seem obvious but the sickest patients go first. So it was a little bit more hectic I think right at the beginning of all this, a little more methodical because not quite the same urgency but there are ambulances sort of walking up and down here from lots of different hospitals. Lots of private ambulance services, as well.

I think one of the big headlines that we're hearing, a lot of people are asking about this, is when might with hospital be up and running again? A hospital that sees 125,000 E.R. visits a year. They're saying it could be two to three weeks for the reasons that you mentioned, getting those pumps back online, John.

BERMAN: Well, it's such a big problem. Two other hospitals have been evacuated. Now, there's only one hospital still up and running in Lower Manhattan.

So, you know, I've got to ask, everyone is wondering. We had warning of this storm. Shouldn't hospitals have done anything differently to avoid this situation?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, we've been asking that same question and I will tell you there was protocols put in place in 2003 after the blackout of 2003. And, you know, talking to the leadership of various hospitals which I have been doing over the past couple of days, they say they followed those protocols.

Let me just give you a quick description. At Bellevue, for example, you had the pumps as you mentioned, the oil pumps. They are closer to sea level or even below. Generators are throughout the hospital but the oil is, again, those pumps because they can be underneath sea level they can be affected by the flooding.

They're encased in these submarine-like containers but they say even those containers were subjected to the flooding. They actually -- the water got inside that containment sort of, you know, area around those pumps.

So these people are literally, as Rob was mentioning, they created these bucket brigades, the National Guard did to try to get the oil up to the generators.

I talked to the president of HHC, Hospital Health Corporation. This is how he put it.


ALAN AVILES, PRESIDENT OF THE HEALTH AND HOSPITALS CORPORATION: Well, this was an unprecedented event. We weathered hurricane Irene 14 or 15 months ago with the same emergency preparations and it didn't come close to endangering the hospital. This hospital sits 20 feet above sea level. So it was obviously that anticipated that we would get a storm surge of this magnitude.


GUPTA: Twenty feet above sea level, John. You heard. Higher even than New York NYU Langone, which is a little further up north here. So, you know, you heard it from him himself, Alan, about how they tried to prepare for this.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Sanjay. Sanjay Gupta down at Bellevue, where that evacuation continues at this very point. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is eight minutes past the hour.

In Breezy Point, Queens, residents are sifting through the wreckage of homes that were destroyed in that massive fire during Sandy. At least 110 homes burned in the firestorm. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo saw the devastation himself yesterday. Cuomo offered comfort to the families who are now literally picking up the pieces of their lives.

BERMAN: Here are some more live pictures to show you, live pictures of that crane, the one, the boom crane that was dangling some 90 stories above Midtown Manhattan. It's now been secured to the luxury high-rise building its attached, no longer poses a threat supposedly. However, streets surrounding the crane remained close, causing really awful gridlock in one of the busiest areas of New York City.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the streets will not re-open until the weekend at the earliest.

SAMBOLIN: And, you know, John, we were talking about this, LaGuardia and how long would it remain closed? Well, flights will resume this morning at New York's LaGuardia airport. LaGuardia, which is located along Flushing Bay had been flooded out, you can see there, due to the storm surge caused by Hurricane Sandy. New York's other two major airports, JFK and Newark Liberty, re-opened on Wednesday. All three airports however they're running reduced schedules.

BERMAN: They were working so hard to get these open. I was surprised they were able to get LaGuardia open today.

Meanwhile, the National Guard on the scene in Hoboken, New Jersey, helping to rescue stranded residents and really delivered much needed supplies. The streets in Hoboken flooded and those waters still very dangerous, filled with sewage and heating oil among other things. Mayor Dawn Zimmer says nearly half of Hoboken's 50,000 residents are stranded inside their homes, most without electricity.

In just a few minutes, we're going to head live to the Jersey Shore where the true scope of the damage is really still just being revealed right after a wall of water pulverized the coastline.

SAMBOLIN: It is 10 minutes past the hour.

Now to the presidential election and the final battlegrounds the candidates are fighting over as voting is just five days away now. President Obama and Mitt Romney set to deliver their final arguments to battleground voters after a Sandy sidebar as they both return to the complain trail. New battleground polls confirm what we already know, that the race is simply too close to call.

"The Wall Street Journal"/NBC/Marist poll shows the president with a six-point over Romney in Iowa, a three-point margin in Wisconsin, and a two-point edge in New Hampshire.

CNN political director Mark Preston is live in our Washington bureau this morning.

Nice to see you.

So, a lot of talk about how Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy might affect the race, Mark. A new poll shows 78 percent of likely voters approve of his response while 44 percent view Romney's reaction favorably. Neither candidate is speaking to politicize the tragedy.

But the big question is, how could it affect the race? Could it affect the race?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, in many ways, I think it has affected the race. Look, President Obama in this time of tragedy has been able to really step into the role as commander-in-chief and as the leader in chief. And in many ways, one of Mitt Romney's top surrogates has provided an incredible amount of cover. Of course, that is the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. President Obama was up there, as we know yesterday.

Let's take a listen to what Chris Christie had to say about the president, what the president had to say about the New Jersey governor.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state, and heard it on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today personally.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people in New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.


PRESTON: And there you have President Obama and Chris Christie less than 24 hours ago, surveying the damage up in New Jersey.

As you said the campaign has restarted again, Zoraida. Today, we will see President Obama in Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada. We'll see Mitt Romney in Virginia and, of course, surrogates such as Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio will be fanned out across the country in these closing days of the campaign.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Mark Preston, live for us in Washington, D.C., thank you.

And at the bottom of the hour, we'll get analysis of the campaign's final days from our political experts in residence, CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and Richard Socarides, writer and former senior adviser to President Clinton.

And in just five days, it will be election night in America. CNN's live coverage will begin at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

BERMAN: Just five days to go.

Meanwhile, coming up, surveying the damage, President Obama gets a firsthand look at the devastation caused by Sandy in New Jersey. We're going to take you live to Belmar right on the Jersey Shore.


BERMAN: The cleanup effort underway along the Jersey Shore as the damage caused by Sandy is now just being revealed.

In Seaside Heights, there are giant sinkholes and houses that just got picked up and moved. Its famous amusement here was decimated, the roller coaster now in the ocean. Shots like these tell the tale. You want to look inside a house now that had its roof simply torn off. Down along the Jersey Shore, firefighters have a lot on their hands, including battling gas fires.

I want to go live now to Jim Clancy in Belmar, New Jersey.

And, Jim, what are officials saying about this gas? Are they worried about explosions?

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are very concerned about it. Really, it's emerging as issue number one at this stage in the recovery effort that is ongoing. Why? Because these gas lines shear off and in a neighborhood like this underwater in some areas, you can see that these are ripe for gas line rupturing, bubbling up through the water accumulating in a home.

When officials go to re-energize the lines, bring in the electricity again, they risk the chance of an explosion and more fires spreading. We have seen this devastation, videotape has come in some shot by a firefighter in Bricks Township, just looking at the situation, how these gas fires are destroying neighborhoods long after the winds of the hurricane has subsided.

Also, we had a real problem in Mantoloking here in New Jersey, similar gas fires. So, they're hoping to get gas officials and gas trucks in, shut off the main supplies, allow these gas leaks to vent before they re-energize the electricity lines -- John.

BERMAN: So, Jim, we're still talking -- three days later now, we're still talking about evacuations in some cases and cleanup. What's the status of those?

CLANCY: They are ongoing. There are still people that have not been evacuated and people are working in order to do that. I talked with one young man yesterday who had just gotten out.

And let me tell you, some of the people coming out are very contrite having heard what Governor Christie said yesterday about how they put other lives at risk. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I stayed in the house because I thought that, you know, it would probably be like last year, really nothing but I was wrong because as the storm got worse and I stayed in the house, I realized that I probably made a mistake.


CLANCY: Seaside Heights is where he was from, one of the last evacuated there late afternoon and talked to him in an evacuation center. As I said, they thought they could stick it out and admit now they were wrong.

John, back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Jim in Belmar, New Jersey -- still such a difficult situation for so many along the Jersey Shore -- thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: So sad, isn't it? Incredibly sad.

And we've got some stunning images to show you out of Rowayton, Connecticut. CNN iReporter George du Pont shot these boats piled on top of each other at a boatyard on Bluff Avenue, and all of the homes nearby. George says he has lived in this area for about 30 years and has simply never seen anything like this.

We have to travel a few towns over or he did to get some of these images because he didn't have any power at his home, so he had to find some power in order to send it in. Thank you very much for sharing that with us.

BERMAN: Just look at those boats.

Obviously, there's so much help needed by so many people facing the huge financial burden of trying to rebuild their lives. We're going to tell you what hurricane victims should know about their insurance, their deductibles, all that coming up.


SAMBOLIN: We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock markets closed mixed after being closed for two days because of superstorm Sandy and U.S. stock futures are trading lower this market indicating markets will open at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: And a lot of places on the East Coast, one of the things we've seen is long, long lines at gas stations.

Christine Romans is here to tell us about that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And it's getting worse. It really is. You've got about half of the stations without power or closed in New Jersey and parts of New York and you've got long, long lines. I saw lines yesterday a half mile or more, reports of mile- long lines for gasoline.

It's not necessarily a gas shortage. It's an inability to access the gas. Why? Because a lot of these -- a lot of these gas stations don't have any power and some are having logistics problems. So you got gasoline coming out of the refinery but it's not getting to the gas stations.

So we're told this is going to be a problem for the next few days. People are filling up their cars. Of course, there's mode of transportation. They're also filling up gas cans because they're running generators and because they're running chain saws like crazy.

I mean, you look at New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, very wooded, mature trees. People got to get out of there. They got to clear their own homes, their own roads and so that's what you're seeing there. It's really tough. If you own your own business -- I mean, people are very upset about this. I talked to a Liberty Cab driver this morning who said, look, I've got two gallons of gas and customers all day long. What am I going to do? So that's what's happening right now in the gas station.

BERMAN: So, you're really I think the first reporter in America to warn all of us to check our insurance for hurricane deductibles because they might be here. And, of course, now, there's news that Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, wants to wave this deductible.

The question is: does he have the power to do that? And what are the implications here?

ROMANS: State insurance regulators do have the power to tell the insurance companies what the trigger will be for hurricane deductibles.

What am I talking about? If a storm lands, check your policy, if a storm lands as a hurricane, it could mean your deductible is not the $500 deductible you thought you had, but really it's a percentage of your home, up to say, on a $300,000 home, it could be $15,000. It could be a lot of money.

Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, saying, no, those hurricane deductibles will not apply for Hurricane Sandy. Unclear if this insurance industry will fight this. It's unclear what the impact would be also on the other end.

Look, if they lose -- if the insurance companies lose a lot of money on this, will they write fewer policies? What will that mean? So, at this point, it could save you thousands of dollars if they make sure the hurricane deductible doesn't go through. I haven't heard back yet from the insurance industry about what they plan to do about it.

BERMAN: All right. Christine, thank you so much. Such important information you'd be giving us on the subject the last few days.

ROMANS: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-six minutes past the hour.

A small, very small taste of normalcy in New York after Sandy. Some subways are back in service. This is on a very limited basis. The latest on the recovery coming up.


BERMAN: Stranded and powerless. Three days after Sandy, frustration and desperation sets in.

SAMBOLIN: And there is no rest for the candidates. Every hour counts with just five days left in a razor-close race.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Thanks for being with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. John Berman here. It's 30 minutes after the hour.

SAMBOLIN: We begin with the latest on the aftermath of Sandy. The city that never sleeps trying to get moving again. Some subways and most buses are up and running again this morning, and they are free but they are very limited. And there's a car pool requirement to get into Manhattan, as well.

BERMAN: Battered beyond recognition. New heartbreaking pictures along the Jersey shore's barrier islands. Houses that were picked up by the force of the ocean, some now buried in sand. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey saying, "The Jersey shore of my youth is gone."

SAMBOLIN: The storm's death toll has now reached 124 people with 56 of those in the United States. At least 20 of them -- 28 in New York. And close to 5 million customers are still waiting for the power to come back on.

BERMAN: It is going to be another very slow go in New York City this morning with more unprecedented bumper to bumper traffic expected. Limited subways and buses will be running, but they will be mobbed.

Take a look at this. It's a tale of two cities, a photo of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, lights out on the Manhattan side, lights on in Brooklyn. What a picture. That really says it all.

Now our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by at Bellevue Hospital where backup power failed and patients are on the move at this very moment. But first, we're going to go to Rob Marciano, who's down at the Brooklyn Bridge. And Rob, Governor Cuomo has declared a transportation emergency. If you see it here, you'll know why. There will be no fares for subways, trains and buses, but many of these lines aren't up and running yet, are they?

MARCIANO: Yes, so the fares, you have free fares, that's great, but if you can't get on one, you can't get on one. The subways are going to run today north of 34th Street but because of that lack of subway service, the buses are completely jammed. And so you can't even get on a bus. There's people pushing and shoving just to try to squeeze their way on. So frustration already building yesterday, it was only day two. You can imagine day three, four and five as we go without power.

I'm standing outside the Brooklyn Bridge where starting at 6:00 you will need three or more people in their car. That's one of the things they're trying to do to alleviate the gridlock that completely paralyzed the city yesterday. The tunnels are closed still, pumping out the water. Subways obviously still pumping out all the water that spewed in from the storm. So that is going to be the main issue today is transportation. People going to be walking over this bridge, a lot of walkers yesterday, John. I assume that's going to be the case again today.

BERMAN: So what about the power, Rob? It's still a virtual blackout below 25th Street. Millions of people without electricity, without water. I guess it would be understandable if we started seeing some frayed nerves about now.

MARCIANO: Yeah, I think today we are. I think yesterday was still a little bit of an adventure. People were being patient but I think as you get towards day three and four without power, without water and without heat, yes, nerves are going to be frayed. We caught up with a lot of people. We went to some public housing where they're having an especially hard time. Here's what one gentleman was struggling with yesterday.


MARCIANO: Houses black out in the storm. How's that been treating you? Obviously, (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's rough. Very rough. Maybe even more sicker than I am. I'm trying to make it to the first floor with all the strength that I got, thanks to my fiancee.


MARCIANO: You can imagine if you're in poor health or elderly or more immobile. You're up in your 15th floor apartment. You can do that for a day but at some point you have to come down and get supplies. That's what we're going to be dealing with the next couple days, making those trips up and down stairs. Some people yesterday were actually going to fire hydrants, getting buckets of water and lugging those up stairs just to flush their toilets, just to get some sort of sanitation but that's going to be an issue.

The other issue, guys, it's going to get colder here over the weekend, so without power most people don't have heat. And temperatures will drop into the 30s here in Manhattan, maybe near the freezing mark in some places without power outside of Manhattan. So staying warm will be a matter of survival as we go through the weekend into next week too.

BERMAN: All right, thanks. Rob Marciano, down at the Brooklyn Bridge. I got to say, Rob, you've been up and down the East Coast just doing amazing work during the storm, thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: Minutes past the hour. The power of Hurricane Sandy was felt on Staten Island across the harbor from Manhattan and Brooklyn. The island's south shore took a beating from the storm surge. Check out the damage in the Great Kills section.

And others, more danger in the water. A northern New Jersey oil facility has leaked 336,000 gallons of fuel along the Arthur Kill, the tidal waterway that separates Staten Island from New Jersey.

BERMAN: Thousands of people will wake up on shelter cots this morning. Take a look at this. These are scenes from Toms Rivers, New Jersey -- about 9,000 in 13 states spent Tuesday night in Red Cross shelters. Donations to the Red Cross are starting to pour in now. That's a good thing. Nearly $12 million so far. If you would like to help, please go to We have all kinds of information there on what you can do to make a difference. SAMBOLIN: 35 minutes past the hour. President Obama met with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie yesterday to survey all of the damage and the two men put on a rare display of bipartisan respect and cooperation.


CHRISTIE: I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state. I heard it on the phone conversations with him and I was able to witness it today personally.

OBAMA: I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.


SAMBOLIN: And now with the election just five days away, President Obama will return full force to the campaign trail today, making stops in Colorado, Wisconsin, Nevada. Mitt Romney also on the road with an appearance this afternoon, that is scheduled in Virginia.

Former senior Clinton adviser and writer Richard Socarides is here in the studio this morning. And CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro joins us live from Miami. Nice to have you both on this morning.

I'm going to start with those nice moments that happened yesterday between Governor Christie and President Obama. They've both been avoiding the idea of politicizing this, right? But, Ana, what I want to know is we're just five days from the election. Will this affect it?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Zoraida, every now and then the right thing to do is also the smart thing to do politically and I think that's what we are seeing in this case. Frankly, this bromance between Chris Christie and Barack Obama, President Obama, is a sight to be seen and something to be heard. But I think it's also very refreshing. I don't know who it helps, I don't know who is it hurts but I think it helps the people of New Jersey and I think it's good for the people of the United States to see that we unite in a moment of crisis and we put helping people in suffering conditions above party or politics even five days before an election.

SAMBOLIN: And Richard here is nodding his head. I think this is the one moment where both of you are going to completely agree.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Yeah, I couldn't have said it any better than what Ana just said. Actually, Ana and I agree more often than most people would imagine, but --

NAVARRO: Oh, don't say that, Richard. You're going to ruin my reputation.

SOCARIDES: I actually think, Ana, that beautifully put and it showed a lot of respect and a lot of cooperation, and really well done both by Governor Christie and by the president.

SAMBOLIN: I don't mean to harp on this any longer but want to share something the governor did say to Fox News yesterday when he asked about whether or not he was happy with Romney's, you know, with Romney's response here. He said, "I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I've just got a job to do in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics and I could care less about any of that stuff."

Will that hurt Romney in particular? I know, Ana, you said earlier you're not sure who wins or loses here, but could that hurt him?

NAVARRO: Well, you know what, though, I actually watched that clip and he said even more things than that and I think it's very typical of Chris Christie. I think he was almost irritated that he was getting asked about politics. As was President Obama when he was asked about politics and both said this has nothing to do with politics. We are all about helping the people of New Jersey, helping the people in need, helping the people of New York.

So I think that is the quintessential Chris Christie, the Chris Christie we've come to know, most of us - a lot of us love, and he was being sincere. You know, don't ask me about Mitt Romney right now. Don't ask me about presidential politics. It's a new world after Sandy for New Jersey and I've got I bunch of people in harm's way who I need to take care of right now. Don't bug me with this stuff.

SAMBOLIN: But you got to wonder if it's going to give President Obama a boost in the polls. The new "Washington Post"/ABC poll shows an overwhelming amount, 78 percent of voters approve of President Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile, 44 percent view Romney's response favorably. 35 percent have absolutely no opinion. So do you think it will give President Obama a boost in the polls, Richard?

SOCARIDES: Well, I don't know if it will help him in the polls, but I do think for the president, you know, good government is good politics right now. And unfortunately for Governor Romney, you know, all he can do from now is stay out of the way. I think that's why you saw in that poll such a large percentage of people who answered "don't know" to that question. Governor Romney in the closing days of this campaign kind of just has to take a couple days and take a couple days of a breather and the president gets to be president. But, you know, that's kind of the way things happen.

SAMBOLIN: All right, we're going to invite you back during the 6:00 hour to dig a little bit deeper into the polls. Richard Socarides, Ana Navarro, thank you so much for joining us now. John, back to you.

BERMAN: Every vote counts especially during a presidential election, so we asked some early voters to share their stories, the issues that matter most for them, who they voted for and why. We're calling these votergraphs.

First up is Richard Moore of Orlando who's supporting President Obama. He said he voted early because he's a poll clerk and can't vote on Election Day. His big issues: the economy, taxes and education. And this is Mitt Romney voter Didi Smith who sent us a picture of her adorable granddaughter, Aria. That's the winner in this election so far. She said she voted early because she wanted to avoid the long lines. Her number one issue, the economy.

SAMBOLIN: I got to tell you, I love these. Send us your votergraph, the address Be a part of our show. We love having you.

BERMAN: And still ahead for us right now, faith, family and the presidential election. Both campaigns try to get religion in one of the final battleground states. We will have a live report from the ground coming up next. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 44 minutes past the hour.

Iowa is one of the final battlegrounds getting plenty of attention from President Obama and Mitt Romney. Religious voters are a critical voting bloc for both campaigns in the Hawkeye State. CNN's Poppy Harlow is taking a much closer look for us. She is live in Waterloo, Iowa. Good morning.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Zoraida. Of the nearly 3 million Iowans, about 30 percent, or a million people, here call themselves evangelical or Catholic. And in 2008, President Obama won 60 percent of the Catholic vote. So it is key but it is especially key when you talk about a state like this, which is split nearly down the middle, and as folks tell me it's a purple state this year.


HARLOW (voice-over): In the heart of Des Moines, evangelical Christians flock to Grace Church to talk faith, family and the presidential election.

RACHEL BRADSHAW, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: I honestly when it all boils down to is what does the Bible say and which candidate is going to follow the closest?

HARLOW (voice-over): For Bob and Rachel Bradshaw, that candidate is Mitt Romney.

BOB BRADSHAW, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: I don't know how in his right mind the president could be for abortion the way he is and support same-sex marriage. It just -- it's hard for me that somebody that claims to be a Christian, you know, makes statements to support things like that.

WASSEY MWAMBA (ph): It's not been an easy choice to make either way.

HARLOW (voice-over): Dawn and Wassey (ph) Mwamba couple have wrestled with their vote. DAWN MWAMBA, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: My religious beliefs in all honestly don't align with either one. If anything, it's probably going to end up being Mitt Romney.

HARLOW (voice-over): 57 percent of voters in the Republican Iowa caucuses identified themselves as evangelicals. They supported Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney, many uneasy over Romney's moderate past on abortion and his Mormon faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it concerns anybody who considers themselves an evangelical Christian.

HARLOW (voice-over): That was then.

(on camera): You previously said that the Romney campaign snubbed social conservatives --

STEVE SCHEFFLER, IOWA FAITH AND FREEDOM COALITION: Well, I think he's proved himself that he has tried to make that outreach to social conservatives as well as economic conservatives. He's done a good job here in Iowa.

HARLOW: While Iowa's evangelical voters seem to be moving into Mitt Romney's camp, here in traditionally Democratic Dubuque, the president may face more of a challenge. The Catholic voters we spoke with are split over issues like abortion, funding for contraception and the government's role in providing for the poor.

DAWN LUEKIN, CATHOLIC ROMNEY SUPPORTER: The life issues which many Catholics, most Catholics, hold dear and central to their faith, but then there's this belief that remains that the Democratic Party somehow cares for the poor better. I think it comes down to that tension.

HARLOW: How big a role does your Catholic religion play in your vote?

KATHY KRUIGER, FORMER NUN: I think it's big. I'm an ex-nun. And I -- the group of nuns that I'm associated with to this day are pushing for Obama.

HARLOW: Is the pro-choice stance difficult for you to reconcile?

KRUIGER: It was very difficult. It bothered me for a long, long time.

HARLOW (voice-over): As did the same-sex marriage issue, both of which she ultimately looked past. But for Catholics like Ellen Markham and her daughter, Dawn, some issues are nonnegotiable.

LUEKIN: For me, it's the life issues. I'm very pro-life and I want an administration that supports that view.

ELLEN MARKHAM, CATHOLIC ROMNEY SUPPORTER: And I would say sanctity of life and sanctity of marriage.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HARLOW: And another factor really weighing in here, Zoraida, is the fact that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has weighed in perhaps strongly than they have in decades opposing the Obama administration's health care plan when it comes to providing funding for contraception. And, you know, the evangelical vote is key in Iowa, it's key in Ohio. If those voters get in this race and vote for Mitt Romney as they're telling me here they will and don't sit it out as many did in 2008, that's huge. Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Certainly going to be interesting to watch. Poppy Harlow, live for us. Thank you.

And we have this programming note for you. CNN's Anderson Cooper takes a final close look at the candidates and their campaigns in "AMERICA'S CHOICE 2012: COUNTDOWN TO ELECTION DAY." That is Sunday night, 8:00 Eastern. It is right here on CNN.

BERMAN: 48 minutes after the hour right now and some signs of normalcy in New York after Sandy. Subways are back in service on a very limited basis but LaGuardia Airport will open again this morning. Amazingly fast. I really didn't think it would get open this quickly again. We will have the latest on the recovery coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. Checking in on the aftermath, the latest after Hurricane Sandy. The storm's death toll has now reached 124 people, with 56 in the United States. At least 28 in New York. Close to 5 million customers still waiting for the power to come back on.

SAMBOLIN: New York City is very slowly attempting to inch back to normal. Some subways and most buses are up and running again this morning, and they are free of charge. But most of Lower Manhattan still has no power. With temperatures dipping into 30s and 40s, a cold night for many, many folks out there.

The National Guard is helping to evacuate, still, residents of Hoboken, New Jersey, who have been left stranded by all the flooding. The mayor says 90 percent of the city is without power and about half of Hoboken's 50,000 residents cannot get out of their homes, so they're stranded.

BERMAN: Other news now, President Obama back on the campaign trail with the election approaching fast - I mean, really fast. Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado all on the president's itinerary today. Mitt Romney will be making stops across Virginia.

And get this -- we've learned that the total spending on the 2012 federal elections could top $6 billion. Billion with a B. That would be a staggering new record.

SAMBOLIN: There's a woman asking me that in line at the store the other day, "Do you know how much they spent?" There you have it. Wow. 53 minutes past the hour. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says a Jeep, a Jeep, got put atop the fence that separates Mexico from Yuma, Arizona. Take a look at this, folks. Two would-be smugglers from Mexico tried to get their Jeep over the fence using what looks like a makeshift ramp there. The suspects got away, but border guards seized the Jeep and their ramp.

BERMAN: It's like a movie shoot or something.

SAMBOLIN: That's insane.

BERMAN: And that cheering you're hearing, that's the streets of San Francisco. Some 1 million people packed the streets of San Fran to celebrate the Giants and their World Series title. The crowd was 50 deep in some places along the parade route, which went downtown. The Giants swept the Detroit Tigers Sunday for their second crown in three years. Congratulations to the Giants. How about next year, you share the wealth a little bit, guys? Enough already.

SAMBOLIN: Yeah, with Chicago.

All right, 54 past the hour. Coming up, the water rushing in, the power going out. We have an amazing time-lapse video of Sandy slamming New York City.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 58 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with John Berman and we are taking a look at top CNN trends on the web this morning.

BERMAN: This is some amazing footage here. You have to check this out. Sandy in seconds. Incredible. Time-lapse video from across the East River. It shows Hurricane Sandy slamming into Manhattan. This takes two days and compresses it down into two minutes. It shows the second the lights go out in Lower Manhattan; it shows everything. Really, really amazing. You want to log on to our web site and check this out and a lot of other things. Go on to for all the top CNN trends.

SAMBOLIN: And EARLY START continues right now.