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In the Wake of Superstorm Sandy; Battleground Blitz; Interview with Senator Bob Menendez; Interview with Marsha Blackburn; National Guard Evacuate Patients at NYC Hospital; U.S. East Coast Begins Clean- up in Wake of Super Storm Sandy; Getting Religion in Iowa

Aired November 1, 2012 - 08:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our team this morning, Margaret Hoover is with us. She is a former White House appointee in the Bush administration, Richard Socarides, he is a writer from, former senior adviser to President Clinton.

And John Berman is joining us, of course. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed is also a panelist this morning, but he is stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Traffic is terrible in the city. So we're going to leave a space for him. When he gets here, he will join us.

Our STARTING POINT is the aftermath of the superstorm, the city getting back to normal very slowly, but I guess depends on what your definition of normal is because lots of people have no heat, no power because gas is running low.

Bumper to bumper traffic that Ben is stuck in right now. Patience for a lot of people is being tested. Some subways are running again this morning. Buses, too. Fare free. But gridlock is expected. And we were really experiencing it yesterday.

Rob Marciano is at the Brooklyn Bridge for us. Hey, Rob. How is it looking?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, traffic is flowing over the bridge. But people are definitely not coming out of this subway station, which is closed because of water issues, obviously. But as you mentioned, the subway lines north of 44th Street are open on a limited basis today. But, obviously, everything south of there, it's not going to happen, still without power here.

We're near City Hall, which is running on generator power. We've got the police headquarters, all the court buildings, they're without power. So, if you're in trouble, have a court date, you're free until Monday. That's the municipal building where all the city's operations are run. They're without power as well.

Of course, to our east as the sun comes up now is the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge, which we do have cars coming over today. If you're coming over in cars, you need three people in your cars, because one of the problems yesterday was gridlock across Manhattan because people were trying to get around via cars. Obviously, we've got foot traffic, folks coming over from Brooklyn via foot, that's also a very popular way to go.

Buses are running on a limited basis. But the more -- as they go up town, they fill up with people just like that. So, boy, they're pushing and shoving yesterday, just trying to get on a bus. So, that's going to be a problem today, even though the governor has announced that we're going to alleviate all the fares across MTA. So, you know, that's one bright spot, I suppose.

Nothing has changed as far as Con Ed is concerned and power restoration. We are on day three now. So, probably day four before power down here is restored. And then, over a week more across parts of the eastern boroughs and parts of Westchester County.

And this is an issue. The power, Soledad, now that we're on day three, elderly people, people immobile, unhealthy even coming down five, 10, 15, 20 flights of stairs is an issue. So, just to get life survival supplies in that capacity is going to be a problem here and I think we're going to need some extra help from the local authorities.

O'BRIEN: You know, it's brutal. I ran into yesterday, Rob, at the TV bank, everybody -- it was like 25 people in the little ATM lobby thing. And I was like, wow, everybody -- there's a run on the ATM. No, they were using the power supplies, plugged in, had all these cords running. And they changed the whole thing --

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: The reason also, there are places where your cell phone works. And did you notice there are people like standing by little pockets outside, using their cell phone?

O'BRIEN: It will be a little while before that's back to normal.

Let's talk about politics this morning. Final push for President Obama, Mitt Romney with the election just five days away. It's kind of a game of inches, I guess.

CNN's latest poll of polls has the president at 48 percent, Mitt Romney at 47 percent. Governor Romney is in Virginia today. The president hits the battleground states, after getting an eyeful from the damage from Sandy in New Jersey.

First stop for the president will be Green Bay, Wisconsin. And CNN's Brianna Keilar is there for us this morning.

Hey, Brianna. Good morning.


President Obama will be here in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in a few hours, holding an event here at Straubel Airport. And this obviously does come on the heels of spending all day yesterday touring the devastation in New Jersey and touring the devastation with one of Mitt Romney's most effective surrogates, Chris Christie. This was an opportunity, obviously, for President Obama to really flex his presidential muscle. I think people can say he did that effectively and also politically, not great for Mitt Romney as he was trying to really surge up politically.

I think some people may wonder if that's reflective in that CNN poll of polls that you referenced, the president ahead by one point at this average of recent national polls. That's something we haven't seen recently.

Also taking a look at "The Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll out today showing that President Obama has a slim lead in some key battleground states. Four points in Iowa, three points here in Wisconsin, two points in New Hampshire. At the same time, though, Soledad, those are not comfortable leads even though they tend to be consistent ones that we see.

And so, you see both the Obama campaign and Romney campaign just blanketing Wisconsin, for instance, with surrogates. We saw Vice President Biden here last week, as well as Senator Rubio, a key surrogate for Mitt Romney.

Last night, Bill Clinton was here. He is here this morning. Yesterday, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was here. We'll also be seeing, of course, President Obama here today.

And, you know, it's really interesting. Something I want to point out, Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers will be here to rally this crowd here at Straubel Airport ahead of President Obama. He is the safety for the Green Bay Packers.

If you know about football, what does the safety do? They protect against long passes against, that's right, the Hail Mary, something the Obama campaign is trying to do here in Wisconsin, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I like that football metaphor. I don't usually follow them all that closely.

But thanks, Brianna. We appreciate it.

We want to welcome Ben Smith, who's finally arrived. He had a little bit of a rough morning. Traffic is terrible for you.


O'BRIEN: Plus that three person rule.

SMITH: We had to drive around Brooklyn, pick up CNN employees to hit the carpool rule.

O'BRIEN: Wow, wow, what a mess. All right. Well, thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks for tolerating my lateness.


MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We had an empty chair --

O'BRIEN: In honor of you. (CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: Metaphor.

SOCARIDES: She gave special dispensation.

HOOVER: Today is the day.

O'BRIEN: Let's bring in Senator Robert Menendez, because, of course, we've been talking about the devastation fallout from superstorm Sandy. Yesterday, as we mentioned, there was a tour with the president and Chris Christie. They were taking a look at some of the really hard-hit areas along the coast.

The senator joins us this morning.

Thank you for being with us, sir. We appreciate it.

Brigantine, New Jersey, is one of the spots that you toured, along with Governor Christie, along with President Obama. Describe for me what you saw. That area really hard hit.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Yes. It was really hard hit, Soledad. It had all of these boats that had been washed ashore into people's homes, sometimes three and four into a person's home. The whole marina, obviously, smashed. Aqua farmers who lost everything in that zone there, a lot of damage. And, obviously, people trying to get their lives back together again.

O'BRIEN: Looking at pictures of these homes sometimes just tilted. You can tell, obviously, that the power was enough to shift the homes off their foundations.

SOCARIDES: Senator, Richard Socarides. I noticed you were with the president and Governor Christie yesterday. I'm sure a lot of people would like to know what that interchange and exchanges were like. You were up there with them.

MENENDEZ: Well, it was incredibly positive. You know, I was talking to the governor before the president arrived at the airport and he -- you know, I said you're doing a great job in this tremendous challenge. And he thanked me.

And he said, well, the president is doing a great job. And I've been on the phone with hi him. He has been responsive. I got a few requests for him today.

And then later on he said to me -- I think he told the whole state on television at that press conference that he had given the president several other requests while they were in the ride from their tour to the place where the press conference was held and that the president got on the phone and started working right away at having those things delivered.

So I got a very clear message from the president when I said to him we need the strongest medical response we've ever seen. I've lived here all my life. I've never seen this type of destruction and the breath and scope of it. And the president said, we are here with you and not only in spirit and word, but in action.

And the National Guard troops that have been here in Hoboken is just one example of that.

HOOVER: Senator Menendez, hi. It's Margaret Hoover. Follow up for you.

You may have noticed that Mayor Bloomberg actually said that he didn't want President Obama to come to New York City quite yet because the effort and the resources that it requires to accommodate the president in a national -- in an emergency like this can actually drain resources away from rescuing people.

There are some people that speculate there was a political motivation on behalf of Chris Christie to -- he has an election coming up in 2013, to appear bipartisan, by appearing with the president. What do you say to that?

MENENDEZ: I don't think there's politics here at all. You know, if I was the governor of the state of New Jersey, I'd want the president of the United States here. I'd want to tell him what I need. I want to ask him what he's going to do for me on behalf of the nearly 9 million people in the state. And that was the right thing to do.

And I would do it, if I was the governor, I would do the same exact thing. I'd want all those federal resources and I would want the man who can make those federal resources happen. As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't about politics. It was about delivery.

O'BRIEN: All right, Senator, hold on for one second, because I want to ask that same question of Margaret. So, do you think it's political? I don't think you have to be a raging cynic to think there is something afoot when you have these glowing quotes from Governor Christie. And back from President Obama to Governor Christie. What's going on, do you think?

HOOVER: Six days away from a national presidential election.

O'BRIEN: Five today, right?

HOOVER: The Republican who delivers the keynote address in favor of Mitt Romney is seen gallivanting around his state when generally resources are pulled from rescue efforts to accommodate the security of the president of the United States. Something is awry.

SMITH: The politics here, though, the idea this is some 20 -- you know, great chess board 2013 is ridiculous. Christie has maximum leverage to get billions of dollars for New Jersey, which they're going to be feeding to that, not in 2013, but over in the next few months, in the lame duck. This is an opportunity for Chris Christie to force Obama and to do Obama a favor that's going to be paid back immediately.

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: I know better to stop you at the beginning.

Senator Bob Menendez joining us this morning -- thank you, sir. We appreciate you updating us on what's happening in your state and some of those pictures from that tour as well. Thanks for your time.

MENENDEZ: Thanks, Soledad, for your coverage and getting people information.

O'BRIEN: Oh, you bet. You bet.

Let's get right to John Berman. He's got a look at some of the other stories making news.


National Guard troops transporting more than 700 patients out of Bellevue Hospital Center now say their job is done. Sandy knocked out the hospital's power and flooding the basement, fuel pumps in the basement which power its generators the basement. Troops literally carried some patients down more than a dozen flights of stairs to get them out.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us live with a report from Bellevue in just about 10 minutes.

This morning, people in Breezy Point in Queens are literally picking up the pieces from their homes. At least 110 neighborhood houses burned in a massive fire during Superstorm Sandy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo toured the devastation yesterday. He spoke to victims. He promised them this tight-knit community will rebuild.

A late-night shooting at the University of California sent four people to the hospital and put the campus on lockdown for several hours. The school's department of public safety says shots were fired after two men had an argument at a party at USC's main campus in Los Angeles. One of the men were critically wounded. And other three people were also shot. Their injuries not life threatening.

Two suspects, Soledad, now in custody.

O'BRIEN: Interesting.

All right. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're just talking about Election Day five days away. Presidential candidates back out on the trail. We're going to talk to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and give us the Republican take on some of these poll numbers, up next.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The eyes of the nation have been watching the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. President Obama hasn't been campaigning since Saturday. Today, though, he's got three stops planned in Wisconsin, in Colorado and in Nevada. And Mitt Romney has events planned in Virginia today. Let's get right to Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. She's a Romney campaign surrogate.

Nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. Let's start with polls. I think that's the best place - oh, actually, let's start with the campaign. Do you think it's too soon? We've been showing pictures of destruction, especially in New Jersey. Is it too soon to start campaigning?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: No. I think that it's appropriate to get back out and campaign. Soledad, all of us, our hearts and our thoughts and our prayers are with those that have been devastated and certainly those of us in Tennessee have great empathy for what they're going through because of the 2010 floods, the May floods, that we endured, the thousand-year flood and billions of dollars in devastation. And we've already got Tennessee volunteers with the American Red Cross that are in New Jersey on the ground, helping and certainly more are en route to help out.

O'BRIEN: Let's throw this open to the panel because I want to go through our battleground states. That's what everybody's looking at. Do poll of polls really matter even now?

SOCARIDES: No. Poll of polls don't matter because they're just, it's not scientific. It's just taking a random sampling of --

O'BRIEN: OK, so then let's do battleground states. Let's through those numbers. Ohio -- Iowa is what I'm trying to say. Obama at 50 percent, Mitt Romney at 44 percent. Wisconsin, Obama 49 percent, 46 percent for Mitt Romney. New Hampshire, 49 percent, 47 percent for Mitt Romney. That's a "Wall Street Journal"/NBC/Marist poll, I should mention.

If you look at Florida, Obama at 48 percent Obama, Romeny at 47 percent. Ohio, 50 percent Obama, 45 percent Romney. Virginia, 49 percent Obama, 47 percent Romney. That is a CBS News/"New York Times"/Quinnipiac poll.

Colorado we were talking about a little bit earlier: Obama at 48 percent, Mitt Romney at 48 percent.

So, Congresswoman, let's start with you on this. I guess the good news is that the president's lead is shrinking. We've seen it go down dramatically in those battleground states. The bad news, though, is that he's ahead. Even if it's a squeaker, he is ahead.

BLACKBURN: Well, I think that there are a couple of things to think about on this. Number one, volunteers who are knocking on doors of those who have not voted come back with a very different message from what you're getting in the polls. And I think that for the president, the fact that there are still undecideds and the independents seem to be breaking toward Mitt Romney, that that is not good news for him because it shows the momentum is definitely with Mitt Romney. People want change. They want action on Day One. And they've been presented a very clear choice between the president and Mitt Romney. SMITH: Congresswoman, Ben Smith from BuzzFeed. Do you have any concern that states like yours and states further south are going to go for Romney by these overwhelming margins, are you concerned that Obama will win the popular vote, Romney will win the Electoral College or perhaps the other way around and what the consequences of that will be?

BLACKBURN: Well, no. I think what you're going to see is a very strong vote coming out for Romney in Tennessee. We all know that. I think that we have this system that provides us the Electoral College. We support that. It's our job to make certain that in these battleground states we get the message out and that we do win those votes, both the popular vote and the electoral college. That's the goal.

SOCARIDES: Hi Martha, it's Richard. How are you?

BLACKBURN: Hi, Richard. How are you?

O'BRIEN: I've got to tell you --

BLACKBURN: I hope all of you are safe.

O'BRIEN: In the commercial -- we are all safe, although he is having heat and hot water problems and electricity problems. But in the commercial break he's like, I love Marsha Blackburn. I love her. He's got a question for you. Go ahead, Richard.

SOCARIDES: I really just want to say -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your phone number?


SOCARIDES: Let's not overstate it. Marsha, we do like each other but have a lot of very substantive disagreements. But I do want to say that Governor Romney has run and made this a very interesting, close race. But if you look at all of the -- you look at all the polling up-to-date, I mean, the president is either ahead or tied in all the swing states. So I don't see how Governor Romney is going to pull it out. But I will say to you that you -- I wish you the best of luck on Election Day and you're my favorite Republican of the entire cycle.

O'BRIEN: There's not even a question in that. Congresswoman, anything you want to respond back to Richard Socarides on with that?

BLACKBURN: Well, I think that what you're going to see is a continuing shift in momentum in these states and in this undecided vote. And, Richard, women are breaking for Mitt Romney. The reason is the focus is on jobs and the economy, dealing with the debt and the deficit.

I have talked to so many women who say the number one reason that they're voting for Mitt Romney is $16 trillion in debt. You know that I felt as if President Bush and everyone has spent too much money, and that the spending has to be dealt with. Mitt Romney has said that is a Day One order for him, to work on getting that spending under control. And I think that because of that, that Election Day you're going to see a Romney win.

O'BRIEN: Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn joining us this morning. Nice to see you. Thank you for being with us, as always. Appreciate it.

BLACKBURN: Good to see you. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You want to tune Tuesday night to CNN's live coverage of "ELECION NIGHT IN AMERICA". We start at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

How about a question? That wasn't even a question.


SOCARIDES: I'm having a tough morning. It's because I have no power.

O'BRIEN: I don't forgive you. Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, troops carrying patients down the stairs after backup power has failed at another New York City hospital. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us with a live update on that effort there. We're back in just a moment.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, minding your business. The next big economic report is the jobs report tomorrow. It'll happen despite rumors it would be delayed because of the Superstorm Sandy.

We've just now received a private sector report on payrolls that may be a foreshadowing. It shows 158,000 jobs created in October in the private sector. In a few minutes, we're going to get jobless claims, that weekly jobless claims report, which is all our last look at the labor market before the election. In case you're wondering, that big jobs report tomorrow, the jobless rate forecast 7.9 percent.

U.S. stock markets reopened yesterday. They closed mixed on the day. Home Depot and Lowe's both grows. We're watching insurers in particular today.

Election Day is five days away. Election spending could top $6 billion according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That includes the race for the White House, Senate and House campaigns, also party, Super PAC and convention committee spending. A lot, a lot of money.

O'BRIEN: What else could you use that money for? If we just shortened the campaign, right? And then, as you said, the limit is X and we're going to put al that money into the deficit.

SMITH: I like the idea. It's like a wealth of stimulus.

O'BRIEN: Bailing out the poor people in the country.

SMITH: -- particularly in these swing states. You're pouring money into Ohio. It's going into the economy. Some irony there.

O'BRIEN: I guess you're right.

All right, National Guard troops say they've now completed that painstaking transfer of more than 700 patients out of New York City's flagship public hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center. Hospital's been dealing with power outages after flooding from Sandy wiped out the fuel pumps that powered their generators.

Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been covering that transfer for us since it began. He is at Bellevue this morning with the very latest. Good morning, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. You know, you can't overestimate how big a process that is to try and move 700 patients to various hospitals around the city. Just transporting a patient within a hospital from one floor to another can be challenging. I mean, they're on a breathing tube, they have IV lines. It can be really challenging. And here, you're walking patients, if not carrying them, down several flights of stairs, bagging them sometimes if they're on a breathing tube. It's quite extraordinary, really, to think about.

They sound like they're complete if not near complete here. Ambulances still lined up. But as you mentioned, those National Guard troops, we talked to them as they walked out a little while ago and they sort of gave us the "mission accomplished" signal there.

These are the guys that, by the way, were not only helping patients down the darkened staircases, but also helping create this bucket brigade to get fuel up to the generators as well. So quite extraordinary work that they were doing, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Sanjay Gupta for us is monitoring that. Thank you, Sanjay. Appreciate the update.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we're keeping an eye on the weekly jobless numbers. They're due out any moment. They're the final weekly numbers ahead of tomorrow's big monthly jobs report.

And destroyed homes, sinkholes, a roller coaster - look at that - underwater. The devastation on the Jersey shore. We're going to take you there live for an update on that situation. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. The latest jobless numbers are due out any minute. Christine, what are we looking at?

ROMANS: We're looking for any kind of recovery overall, quite frankly, because jobless claims have been trending lower. But tomorrow is a big number, the jobs report number. We're expecting 7.9 percent for the unemployment rate. Here is what I think, if you get 7.8 percent or 7.9 percent, it really means nothing. If you get 8 percent or higher, that will be bad for the president. If you get anything that's real low, 7.7 percent, you're going to get some good news for the president, but the conspiracy theorists will spend the weekend spinning their conspiracy theories.

What is it? It's 363,000 jobless claims. That's down 9,000 from the week before. So let's put that in the trend. When you look at the trend back in 2007, jobless claims have been dropping, dropping, dropping. This is a chart that, you know, the White House would say is good for the president because things have been getting better since that peak that he, quote, unquote, "inherited," that recession that he inherited. But, you know, many say it needs to be a lot better. That's why they'll still be talking about that jobs report tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: We have a lot to talk about with that jobs report tomorrow, actually. We'll have Grover Norquist joining, Sheila Baer, Erin Burnett, and Candy Crowley as well. So numbers, numbers, numbers tomorrow, because I think you're right. Depending where it comes in, political implications could be big.

ROMANS: It's interesting, earlier this week, the BLS was telling us we'll see if we can get this number down for you, and the White House is saying they'll get it done. Don't worry. I think no one wants this number to have been delayed and have it come out right before the election, whether it was good or bad, no one wanted this right thing before the election.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.

In the aftermath of the hurricane Sandy some New York City subways are closed. Most buses are up this morning. They're limited. Three people per car minimum if you want to drive into Manhattan. Do not even bother to try unless you have three people in your car. The Jersey shore, which was battered beyond recognition, some really sad pictures to share with you this morning. Governor Chris Christie said the Jersey shore of my youth is gone.

The storm's death toll has now reached 124 people, 68 in the U.S. 24 in New York. Nearly 5 million people are still waiting for the power to come back on. Seaside Heights, New Jersey, massive, massive sinkholes, homes were picked up and moved off their foundations. And the rollercoaster, look at that, it's in the ocean now. The roof from one house torn off, that's kind of typical, actually. The bigger problem is the broken gas lines that have kept the firefighters busy. This is a picture from Queens the other day when that massive fire was breaking out.

Jim Clancy has an update for us in Belmar, New Jersey this morning. I've run through a lot of the damage. Tell me a little bit about Belmar.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Belmar, like so many other places, hard hit. The local newspapers, you know, put it into perspective. This was the headline in this morning's edition, "Swept Away." Little bit of a note, though, on the political side. It says a "National commitment to rebuild," referencing the visit of President Barack Obama and the governor, of course, Chris Christie, some people taking some hope from all of that.

Today, people have seen what the devastation is. They recognize for many, many people, their homes are gone forever. They were literally swept away. But for others, there's damage to be repaired. There are cities here to be rebuilt. These are the Barrier Islands, and the people who live here know the risk that they face. Right here at the end of this street that is under about five feet of water right now, there are frontend loaders trying to push debris out of the storm drains. They're going to bring in some pumps, getting this water out. There are 1.75 million people in New Jersey right now without power. There are thousands of crews, not only from here but from around the south and around the entire region working to restore their power. There's a lot of work to be done. The weather is in their favor. It will take a lot more than just one day, and we all know it.

ROMANS: I wish it would just be one day. You're absolutely right. Thank you for the update.

Christine, let's talk a little bit about the financial impact. Jim kind of gave us a list of everything that's wrong. That all means money.

ROMANS: And three is also this complication with recovery that is a problem getting gas. You've got something like half the gas stations in New York and New Jersey are closed right now. That's a problem for people who are trying to both get fuel for their chainsaws, fuel for their small businesses, even car services, for example. You think they would be minting money right now except they can't fill up so they can't mint money waiting for transportation to get going again.

People trying to get fuel for the generators, and we're told a lot of the local media are reporting in New Jersey and parts of New York that people are being diverted from streets where they are trying to keep people safe from downed power lines to the long line at gas stations to prevent fights from breaking out. It's getting ugly out there. Please bring your patience.

We look at the economy overall for New York City, the comptroller yesterday said $200 million a day in lost economic activity. If you're a small business you may or may not have business interruption insurance. If you don't, that means your employees aren't coming in, your customers aren't coming in right now.

O'BRIEN: Is there a hurricane deductible?

ROMANS: We'll see about the hurricane deductible. Governors have been saying that this hurricane deductible will not happen, right? So for homeowners, for homeowners who were going to pay tens of thousands of dollars on your home, now you'll probably pay just what your regular deductible is going to be. So the mayors are stepping in saying your deductible is your deductible. The hurricane deductible will not go into play here. I can't imagine that makes the insurance companies very happy after there was clearly a hurricane when it hit. Insurance premiums, by the way, have been housing for several years because of a lot of building in very expensive places where there's a lot of storms. O'BRIEN: The debate was is it a hurricane? Is it a flood? Is it a collapse of a levee? What is the damage to my home? That difference between whether it's a hurricane or a flood could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars.

ROMANS: Flood insurance. Before Irene only five percent of people in the northeast had flood insurance, a federally mandated program. Now it's more like 14 percent. After Irene, people got religion but a lot of people don't have flood insurance. If you're flooded out, you're flooded out.

O'BRIEN: And FEMA may not be able to pay for the flood insurance.

ROMANS: There's will be a delicate dance between FEMA, governors, insurance companies, and homeowners who are stuck right now.

O'BRIEN: That's not a story that's going away.

Other stories that are making news, John Berman has that.

BERMAN: Thank you, Soledad.

There is more danger in the water for residents of hard-hit Staten Island. The northern New Jersey, oil facility has leaked 336,000 gallons of fuel along the tidal waterway that separates Staten Island from New Jersey. A New York City police officer is one of the victims of hurricane Sandy as 28-year-old went to check on the water in his basement Monday night in the southeast section of Staten Island and never returned. His body was found the next day.

A live look at the crane that has become a major New York City tourist traction 90 stories above midtown. It is no longer dangling this morning after crews secured the boom to the high rise it is attached to. But streets surrounding it are closed and will not reopen until the weekend at the earliest.

All three of New York's major airports are open for business this morning, but on reduced schedules. Flights to resume this morning at LaGuardia airport located along Flushing Bay. Runways there have been flooded. You can see the pictures right there. JFK and Newark Liberty reopened yesterday morning. Again all these airports on limited schedules.

Let's take a look at this picture. This is a jeep that's stuck on a fence. Not just any fence, however. This is the border that separates Mexico from Yuma, Arizona. U.S. customs say two would-be smugglers from Mexico tried to get their jeep over the fence using makeshift ramps. That's something over a movie. Suspects got away but guards seized the jeep and the ramps also.

The presidential election, in the battle for the four-year-old vote both candidates lose. This little girl can't wait for the election to be over.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm tired of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why you're crying? It will be over soon, Abby, OK? The election will be over soon, OK?



BERMAN: Abby, it will be over in five days. Until then, watch our coverage here on CNN.

O'BRIEN: But it's back in four years.

BERMAN: Her mom was listening to NPR in the car.

O'BRIEN: Really?

BERMAN: Yes. And she was done.

O'BRIEN: NPR issued an apology. Did you see that article?

BERMAN: Really?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Pull that up. NPR issued an apology to the little girl.

HOOVER: The news is so bad this year.

BERMAN: Somebody has a sense of humor at NPR.

ROMANS: What clearly happened was that her mom was listening to the news and not her favorite music. That's why she hates the election.

BERMAN: A lot of people feel that way, though.

O'BRIEN: I am with you, sister, is what I say.

Ahead on STARTING POINT THIS MORNING, is vice president Biden already eyeing another run for office? See what he said to one voter that has some folks talking about Biden 2016. That's ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A quick look at your headlines this morning.

Thousands of people waking up on shelter cots this morning after being displaced by super storm Sandy. These are scenes from Toms River, New Jersey. About 9,000 people now in 13 states spent Tuesday night in Red Cross shelters. The good news, donations for the Red Cross are starting to pour in. Well over $11 million so far. If you want to help, please go to to see what you can do. I encourage you all to do it.

CNN iReporter George DuPont shot these stunning images in Connecticut. Boats were piled on top of each other in a boat yard and really on top of nearby homes. He has lived in the area for 30 years and says he has never seen anything like this. George had to travel a couple of towns over to send us these pictures because he had lost power.

Could Vice President Biden be thinking about a presidential run in 2016? The vice president was in Florida campaigning for President Obama when he got on a cellphone to talk to a Romney supporter and talked about the possibility. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I just wanted to say hi to you. And after it's all over, when your insurance rates come down, then you'll vote for me in 2016.


BERMAN: You'll vote for me in 2016. Joe Biden, ladies and gentlemen.

O'BRIEN: Apparently he has announced.

BERMAN: There you go.

O'BRIEN: He is running in 2016.

BERMAN: He has been saying that for years. Nobody take it is seriously.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, faith, family and the presidential election. Both campaigns are trying to get religion in one of the final battlegrounds. That's ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back.

You're watching STARTING POINT. Iowa is one of the final battlegrounds. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal Marist poll gives President Obama a six-point edge over Governor Romney, 50 percent to 44 percent. Roughly 30 percent of Iowans are Evangelicals or Catholics and they're a critical voting block for both campaigns in a state that could decide who wins the White House.

CNN's Poppy Harlow is live for us this morning. She's in Waterloo, Iowa. Good morning Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Good morning Soledad.

Well yes, about a third of the population in this battleground state, about a million people either call themselves Catholic or Evangelical. In the general election in 2008 the President took about 60 percent of the Catholic votes. So this is key especially when you're talking about a state like Iowa, which folks here describe to me as split right down the middle or a purple state.


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: Honestly, what it all boils down to is what does the bible say and which candidate is going to follow the close -- closest?

HARLOW: For Bob and Rachel Bradshaw, that candidate is Mitt Romney.

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

It's not been an easy choice to make either way.

HARLOW: Dawn and Wasi Mwamba have wrestled with their votes.

DAWN MWAMBA, EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN: My religious beliefs, in all honesty I don't even know what I want, if anything it's probably going to end up being Mitt Romney.

HARLOW: Fifty-seven percent of voters in the Republican Iowa Caucuses identify themselves as Evangelicals. They supported Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney, many uneasy over Romney's moderate past on issues like abortion and his Mormon faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it concerns anybody who considers himself an Evangelical Christian.

HARLOW: But 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 here 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 -- and central to their faith, but then there's this disbelief 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 KRUGER, FORMER NUN: I think it's big. I'm an ex-nun. And -- 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?

KRUGER: It was very difficult. It bothered me for a long, 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 Marcum and her daughter, Dawn, some issues are nonnegotiable.

D. LEUKIN: For me it's the life issues, I'm very pro life. And I want an administration that supports that view.

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


HARLOW: And this year it's gotten even more interesting. You know the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been extremely vocal in its opposition to the Obama administration rule requiring health insurers to provide free contraception. So that complicates the President's relationship with Catholic voters even in a place like Dubuque, Iowa which is largely Democratic and where we have seen in history most of those Catholic Democrats, most of those Catholic voters have been Democrats -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, thanks for the update, Poppy. We certainly appreciate it.

We've been asking folks to send in photos of yourself, telling us if you voted early and why. We're calling them "Votergraph", right?

This week comes from Richard Moore he's in Orlando, Florida. He says he voted early for President Obama. He said "The biggest issue for him in the election was the economy and taxes."

Didi Smith, from Ft. Worth, Texas, sent us a picture of her granddaughter, Aria, to show how important it is to vote. She says she voted early for Mitt Romney. She says for her "The economy is the most important issue."

Send us your Votergraph, it's not a photograph, it's a votergraph at CNN -- see clever, I'm telling you. You guys are not getting my joke here. --

SOCARIDES: You're very clever. You're very clever.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. It took me a while there.

Of course, you want to tune in on Tuesday night. The CNN's live coverage of election night in America. We start at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "End Point" is up next. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

This just in to CNN. There are reports this morning that former Penn State president, Graham Spanier will be charged with perjury and obstruction of justice today in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. Tim Curley -- remember him -- he's the former athletic director and retired; and Gary Schultz also could face more charges.

There's going to be a news conference this morning with the attorney general and Pennsylvania state police commissioner. I guess that news conference is happening at noon today.

Just a couple of minutes left for our "End Point" this morning. That's kind of a shocker, huh? Although, many people talked about that happening, that's really interesting, I think.

BERMAN: Yes, they did. And Graham Spanier is a major official in education right now -- major public figure facing perjury charges.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be so interesting to see where that goes and the evidence that comes out of the rest of these trials that they move forward.

All right. Who wants to tackle end point?

SOCARIDES: It's November 1st. We should have a couple of predictions here, right? I mean Ben is here. Ben knows more about this than anybody. I would like to hear Margaret's prediction. I have a little bit of a prediction.

People will not be surprised that I think President Obama is going to win, two points. I would say about close to 300 electoral votes.


Look, it's turnout versus the polling. If you take the accumulation of each of the battleground polls, every single one of them, the average of Colorado, the average of Iowa, the average of Ohio, they're all within the margin of error. This is a turnout game. And it's not weather -- all these other things are going to have to do with who gets most of their people to the polls.

O'BRIEN: People recovering from Sandy.

HOOVER: Provisional ballots are going to be big in Ohio. That's my prediction.

SMITH: If it comes down to who has been preparing longer and has better organization, Obama will win. I mean it's just -- they've been out there. Somebody said it's like Ohio since 2007 building these local organizations. If it comes down to enthusiasm, that could be something different. But I mean -- I'm not only -- it feels -- it feels like an election where the incumbent stumbles in early October. Usually that's the (inaudible), the incumbent loses. It's very hard to recover.

But the polling -- it will turn out that there was something really wrong with all of the polling if Obama loses at this point.

O'BRIEN: What was the October surprise since we're on November 1st?

BERMAN: Look, I think Sandy happening this week has changed how we look at the election for sure. I think that coming up -- coming into Monday or Tuesday, the Romney message was momentum, momentum, momentum. Then they just stopped having a message because they couldn't because Sandy took over.

And now today we're starting up again with Barack Obama out there in New Jersey with Chris Christie and the message is he's got the mantle of bipartisanship.

O'BRIEN: Five seconds or less. In five days, is there time to -- for a whole new messaging, no new momentum from either side?

HOOVER: There's a little bit time for it because we'll have the jobs report tomorrow. That could have some momentum for Romney going into the weekend.

O'BRIEN: All right. We've got a look at what's coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT following the latest, of course, on Sandy's aftermath.

We're going to talk more about the election. The big jobs report for October is going to come out, the monthly report for Election Day. That's going to be a big one. So we're going to bring in Grover Norquist. Sheila Bair will join us. Ken Rogoff will be back. Erin Burnett will sit down with us. Candy Crowley will join us as well. We're going to crunch some numbers. It's going to have a huge impact or I think a significant impact on the election depending where those numbers are.

We are out of time this morning. We're going to send it right out to "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello. We'll see everybody else back here tomorrow morning for STARTING POINT.

Hey Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning Soledad.

Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM. The shifting sands and reshaped coastline of the Jersey. Today, its long cherished barrier islands barely recognizable.

Democrats and Republicans set aside their differences to rush emergency aid to the storm zone. But one lawmaker says not so fast.