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Final Election Push; Hurricane Recovery Efforts Continue

Aired November 2, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: The hurricane took his home and looters took his livelihood -- tragedy upon tragedy on hard- hit Staten Island.

The growing fuel shortage in the disaster zone. People are waiting for hours in gas lines that stretch for miles.

And we're with the presidential candidates on their sprint to Election Day, a new jobs report adding new fuel to the campaign fire.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin though with the breaking news. The New York City Marathon has been canceled in the wake of the superstorm disaster. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was insisting the race needed to go this Sunday as scheduled, citing it as a boost for his battered city, but it caused a huge backlash from storm victims and so many other New Yorkers.

And just moments ago, the mayor issued a statement acknowledging the controversy, saying it cannot be allowed to distract from recovery efforts.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is on the hard-hit Staten Island right now.

Deb, they're pretty -- the folks were pretty angry when the mayor earlier in the day said he would not postpone or cancel the marathon. He has reversed his course. I assume they're pleased he made that decision.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know what? Wolf, this is not just a reversal. It's a complete and total reversal.

The backlash here on Staten Island was extreme. People saying that any resources that were going to be diverted for the marathon should in fact be diverted here. They say the buses that were going to be used to carry runners over into Staten Island in fact should be used to take volunteers here because these people need a lot of help.

Just driving along the streets of the city, you can see just people's homes, everything they own, the contents just in piles and mountains in front of their homes, homes that have been completely shattered. Folks said that by shutting down the marathon over Narrows Bridge, which is where the race would have begun, that in fact it would have cut off first-responders and other resources from getting in and out of the city quickly.

They would have all had to go through New Jersey and the outrage was palpable here. One many saying how insensitive to begin a race just blocks from where two little boys were swept from their mother's arms and were found drowned. Really, people here are hurting, they are hurting very, very badly.

They thought to go ahead with a marathon would simply be one of the most cold acts that could have happened. And there was no justification, no amount of money that may or could have been raised that could divert from the attention that what these people need is they need hands, they need volunteers, they need first-responders, they need people to help them just dig themselves out from this catastrophe that has struck so many neighborhoods here on Staten Island -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In all of your conversations throughout the day on Staten Island, did you find any residents at all who were at least in part sympathetic to the mayor's earlier announcement that the marathon was going forward?

FEYERICK: No, none at all, none at all.

As a matter of fact, Wolf, I opened the window as we were driving past, because I thought, OK, maybe we're just talking to the wrong people, and as I shouted what do you think about the marathon, virtually every single person said it was a horrible idea, that it was a slap in the face, it was a disgrace, disgusting.

Those are just some of the words that I can repeat, Wolf. The people really felt it was just a horrible thing and they also felt that one of the reasons the mayor was doing it, rightly or wrongly, was to sort of appease some of the big backers and some of the big donors and not in fact to help people who are not rich.

That's what they were telling me. They said, we don't have the money, so we're being ignored. The lights will go on in Lower Manhattan tomorrow, maybe, but the lights are not going to come back on Staten Island for a week. So what does that say?

That's really the way they felt. They felt isolated, marginalized, and as if they were being ignored. I'll tell you, Wolf, I was out in Breezy Point where all of those homes burned down, and I have to tell you as bad and as horrendous as that tragedy is out there, driving around the streets of Staten Island, it is equally, equally devastating, Wolf.

BLITZER: An awful situation. The folks, I'm sure, were beginning to feel almost like second-class citizens, if you will. They must be pleased that at least on this the mayor decided to back down. Deb Feyerick, thank you.

Superstorm Sandy was only the beginning of a seemingly endless series of hardships for so many of those that live in these hard-hit areas.

Let's go over to Kate Bolduan. She's picking up those stories.

You have got more, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Staten Island was sure hard hit.

Staten Island has suffered not only a heavy loss of life, but also a staggering loss of homes and for at least one man there, a loss of livelihood as well.

CNN's Brian Todd has been on Staten Island for us.

Brian, The secretary of security, Janet Napolitano, she said that borough is definitely one of the hardest-hit boroughs. What are you seeing there today?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the scene behind me tell it's all. Look at this. This is the corner of Cedar Grove Avenue and Maple Terrace. This house was completely leveled, that block after block in this neighborhood, houses are either like this or in maybe not much better condition.

You're hearing horrific stories from just about every resident you talk to in this neighborhood. But here is a story from one man that took a few hits.


TODD (voice-over): If you can't imagine what it's like to suffer through a massive storm, listen to Nick Camerada.

NICK CAMERADA, NEW YORK: The water was so high. It was up to this part of the door. I couldn't get into the door. I went around the side of the house. And I stood on a box that was floating. And I went through a window to get back in the house with my family.

TODD: Taking us through his house on Staten Island, the retired UPS truck driver says he and his family scrambled to an upper floor away from water he was sure would keep rising.

CAMERADA: Absolutely. We thought we were going to lose our lives.

TODD: Camerada, his wife and four sons survived. Just about all of their first floor didn't.

(on camera): Then just as Nick and his family were recovering from the shell shock of the storm and the flooding and trying to assess all of this damage, he took another body blow.

(voice-over): He leads us to his side yard, where he had set up a small engine repair business and a trailer full of tools he'd need for his new profession.

CAMERADA: Last night, they were banging on doors. Anybody home? If you're not home, if we don't get a response from you, we're going to break your door down just to see if you're OK. They were all looters.

I yelled out my window on a few occasions until I was exhausted tired. I wake up this morning, pushed my shed open and went through all my tools. I got nothing. Every tool that was hanging that was worth anything, all my air tools, there's nothing in the drawers but handprints.

TODD (on camera): Could these have been people who you knew, Nick?

CAMERADA: It's sad to say they're neighborhood guys.


TODD: So they knew you? You knew them?

CAMERADA: Yes, I knew one of them.

TODD (voice-over): Camerada owns a house next door that was ruined by the flood. The tenant, Jeanne Valitutto, says she lost another home to a fire two years ago.

JEANNE VALITUTTO, NEW YORK: I can't even explain what did I do that the same thing happened to me twice. I feel like, why me?

TODD: A tenant, an owner, his family left with so very little except...

CAMERADA: My kids are alive. My wife is alive. We can move on.


TODD: Nick says he came up with a slogan for his new business. The slogan is, if your engine is sick, call Dr. Nick.

Well, he says right now, I'm not Dr. Nick anymore, at least not for a while -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And you have been talking to residents there for a couple days now. What do they say they need most? What is their most urgent need right now?

TODD: That's a very good question.

They need some form of heat. If people can bring in some generators or something like that to help them heat their homes, even tubs of hot water, things like that, that's what they desperate need, especially this time of night. The temperature drops here very drastically as soon as the sun goes down.

Right about now, when it starts to get dark, the temperature is really dropping and they need some form of heat. That's really the hardest thing to get in here, though, Kate. No electricity, of course, that's not coming for several days, so these people are in a pretty bad way right now. BOLDUAN: Just a wait and see until the power gets back on. Brian Todd doing fabulous reporting out in Staten Island for us, thanks so much, Brian.

BLITZER: Tough assignment, but he's doing a great job.


BLITZER: A daunting task ahead on New Jersey's barrier islands as well. Take a look at Long Beach Island, battered by the wind and the waves of Hurricane Sandy.

The storm pushed tons and tons of sands off of the beach and moved it inland, where it's now piled up on roads and around homes like snowdrifts in certain places. In some spots, the new sand dunes are as high as four feet.

Gas and patience in short supply in the disaster zone. Cars are lined up for miles and miles and people are waiting for hours. We have details of the growing fuel shortage. That is next.


BLITZER: Gas supplies are rapidly dwindling and gas lines are growing in parts of New York and New Jersey.

BOLDUAN: Cars are lining up for miles and people are waiting for hours to see what they can get.

CNN national Susan Candiotti is working that part of the story for us this evening.

Susan, what's the latest?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have in line, two different lines for much of the afternoon, trying to see what it was like, what everyone else is experiencing being in line for hours to get gasoline.

This, again, second of two lines. The first time, we were in line for only about 20 minutes and they ran out of gas. This is the second line we have been in, and it's been more than two hours now and we just got word a little while ago that they just ran out of gas too.

So we're going to have to do what everyone else is trying to do and that is find a gas station that still has supplies, and it obviously is an all-day project.

BLITZER: Susan, it's not necessarily the shortage of gas that's the problem. There's something else that is causing all of these delays.

CANDIOTTI: That's right.

It's a big problem trying to get the gasoline transported to all these gas stations, who are just waiting for that next shipment. They have opened the ports. They are trying to get it moving, but it just takes awhile to get to all of these places.

The other main problem is some of the gas stations don't have power, so you literally have to drive around or get on the Internet and find out which are the ones that currently have the gas supply. And so far, everyone in this line has been very patient. They're waiting it out.

When they get the bad news, you might think they'd be mad, but for the most part, everyone is taking it in stride and saying, what can you do? They're throwing their hands in the air and just saying, we have got to move on.

We're just inching up here. We have not even officially received word from this gas station about what the problem is. And there is still a big line of people behind me who don't know what we have been able to find out by running ahead.

These people in front of us, well, now we're approaching the gas station. And the police department, they have got a lot of police presence here, and they're telling people what's going on and they're saying they're not going to get another supply, shipment until tomorrow.

BLITZER: Yes, tempers are short. There have been a lot of nasty moments while people are waiting for gasoline. If somebody cuts in, it could be ugly. We have heard some ugly reports.

Susan Candiotti, we will stay in close touch with you.

The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, saw the crisis on Staten Island for herself today, touring the devastated borough with other FEMA officials.

She talked to me afterward. And I asked her about what's next and whether the federal government could have been better prepared.


JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's a tough situation. It's going to be tough until power is restored and gasoline becomes available. Those two things are related.

It's going to be a cold weekend. But nobody should be lacking for shelter. Nobody should be lacking for food and water and health care and all the necessities of life as we work through the power situation. That's what's on our mind. It's life safety. It's public safety and recovery.

BLITZER: There was a lot of warning about this storm. And there are some complaints that there was not enough stuff, if you will, generators, water, food, shelter, prepositioned on Staten Island in advance. Did you have the proper material, the proper shelters, whatever prepositioned, ready to go?

NAPOLITANO: Yes. Preposition, you have to remember that we didn't quite know where this storm was going to hit. And you don't want to preposition in an area that's going to be hit by the storm.

So we picked an area right outside the likely storm zone and have been moving all of that material, the food and the water, into the affected area immediately so that for example into the Manhattan, Staten Island, New York City area, a million meals, more than a million liters of water.

And that's going to keep coming. That's going to be a steady flow. And in addition of course we work with our partners in the Red Cross and with the National Guard on distribution. So we were very well prepositioned.

BLITZER: But the stuff is only beginning to arrive today. Is that right?

NAPOLITANO: No. No, no. No. Stuff began arriving on Tuesday. But all of the centers and the places of distribution were not established right away. Those took a little time to get up and running.

But they're up and running now and even more are coming. So now we're in the process of working our way through the storm. You know, President Obama said whatever resource we can give and put into this cause, we are to do so and to lean forward. And that's exactly what we're trying to do.


BLITZER: Janet Napolitano speaking to me. It's a huge, huge operation.

It's not just going to be for a few days, Kate. This is going to go on, and on, and on. People are in trouble.

BOLDUAN: People are in trouble, and there's still some more than three million people without power all across the East Coast, so something not even close to being over.

Still ahead, though, the most anticipated jobs report of the year is out. President Obama is talking about it. So is his Republican rival, Mitt Romney. They're waging a fierce campaign battle in Ohio. We will take you there.


BOLDUAN: We're now just four days from the presidential election, if you needed a reminder.

BLITZER: I don't need it.


BOLDUAN: And the candidates are crisscrossing the country in a whirlwind of final campaigning.

Our correspondents are at every stop and in all the battleground states covering every angle of this very tight race for the White House.

BLITZER: They're working very hard.

Let's go to Ohio right now. It has 18 crucial electoral votes. President Obama won the state in 2008, but Ohio went to the Republican, George W. Bush, in 2004. Obama was there today touting the new jobs report that showed stronger-than-expected hiring last month.

But much of his focus was on a Romney campaign ad that the president says is trying to scare people.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us now from Lima, Ohio.

What is the president saying, Jessica?


Well, in three speeches here in Ohio today, Wolf, the president made brief mention of the new jobs report, and he talked extensively about the auto bailout, which he said saved jobs here and throughout the country. He mentioned that Romney ad. And he delivered his closing argument in a speech that his senior adviser, David Axelrod, told us came from the president's loins.


YELLIN (voice-over): In Ohio, the president saw the bright side of the new jobs numbers.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This morning we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months. The American auto industry is back on top.

YELLIN: Notice that pivot? The president turned quickly from jobs numbers to the auto industry.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We've been seeing this out of Governor Romney and his friends over the last few weeks.

YELLIN: No mention of government job losses or an unemployment rate uptick to 7. 9 percent, but lots of time on a fight over the auto bailout and an ad from the Romney campaign.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And you can't try to scare people. This is not a game. These are people's jobs. These are people's lives.

YELLIN: He's talking about this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build jeeps in China.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Of course, it turns out it's not true. The car companies themselves have told Governor Romney to knock it off. YELLIN: The squabble over that spot has made headlines here in Ohio, the Obama campaign hit back on air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: GM calls Romney's ads politics at its cynical worst.

YELLIN: On the stump the president is casting it as part of a larger message.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Massaging the facts when they're inconvenient to your campaign, that's definitely not change. That's the oldest trick in the book. Yes.

That's what Governor Romney's been doing these last few weeks. And I know what real change looks like because I have fought for it right alongside you. And after all we've been through together, we sure can't give up now.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the Romney campaign was quick to hit back, saying in part that the auto companies are expanding their production with jobs overseas.

To be clear, they're not moving their jobs overseas, but they're adding new jobs overseas. They also said that unemployment has risen since the president has been in office.

Now, one maybe lighter note, Wolf. I did mention that David Axelrod said that the speech is coming from the president's loins. That happened only about an hour ago he made that statement. And president's loins has its own Twitter handle already.

BLITZER: Didn't take very long. All right, very cute. Thanks very much, Jessica Yellin, with the president.

Kate, these last four days, it's going to get tough out there.

BOLDUAN: It's always silly season, and it's almost over, I promise.

Mitt Romney is also in Ohio today. We will catch up with his campaign and hear how he's using the jobs report against President Obama.


BLITZER: All guns firing today in the battle today for Ohio.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Mitt Romney has been there much of the day knowing that no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. And Romney believes he has a new weapon in his arsenal, the latest unemployment report.

CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta is with the Romney campaign -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf and Kate, voters are getting a clear sense of the final contrast they're facing on Election Day. After President Obama dubbed the latest jobs report a sign of what he called clear progress, Mitt Romney is making those numbers part of his case for real change.


CROWD: Four more days! four more days!

ACOSTA (voice-over): With a fired-up Republican crowd outside of Milwaukee chanting "Four more days," Mitt Romney sliced into the latest unemployment numbers like a block of Wisconsin cheddar, milking the jobless report in his closing argument to voters.

ROMNEY: Unemployment is higher today than when Barack Obama took office. Think of that. The question of this election comes down to this. Do you want more of the same, or do you want real change?

ACOSTA: Gone was any sign of the hesitation Romney showed in criticizing the president in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. It was all red meat, as Romney warned a second Obama term could bring about another recession and worse.

ROMNEY: The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.

ACOSTA: Over the final weekend before the election, roughly 100 GOP heavy-hitters will deliver that message to voters in 11 battleground states.

ROMNEY: The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump.

ACOSTA: In Pennsylvania, Romney will visit Sunday. In a surprise move to capture the state, his campaign is playing is playing this ad at gas stations, blaming the president for the nation's pain at the pump.

In a sign the state is suddenly more competitive, the president's surrogate in chief, Bill Clinton, is on his way there, as well.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Essentially what President Obama is saying, look at me, I'm always willing to work with the Republicans. I worked with governor Christie in New Jersey in Sandy.

ACOSTA: Romney, too, is promising bipartisan, promising that he will work with parties to pass what he's calling the Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act, which would cut nondefense spending by 5 percent.

President Obama, Romney says, has forgotten his mandate to become a post-partisan leader. Instead, Romney charged the president is, quote, the "most partisan."

ROMNEY: We ask them, and you, to look beyond the speeches, and the attacks, and the ads. Look to the record.

ACOSTA (on camera): Romney is trying to pull out all the stops on this final weekend before the election. After Kid Rock plays at his last event here in Ohio, Romney heads next to New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado. Then he heads back east again for the final three days before the voter goes to the polls -- Wolf and Kate.


BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.

We also have new poll numbers from the critical battleground state of Ohio. Take a look at this: our CNN/ORC survey shows President Obama with a narrow lead in this state, 50 percent to Romney's 47 percent. That's within the sampling error, effectively making it a dead heat.

Our own experts are here to weigh in on what's going on. Our senior political analysts David Gergen and Ron Brownstein, as well as our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

What stands out to you, Gloria, from this latest poll?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was looking at the gender numbers which I always do, which is quite interesting. When you look at the gender gap on both sides here, when you look at men and women, you'll see that Mitt Romney leads with 13 points, there it is. Thirteen points with men, and with women, the president leads by 16 points. So Romney has to get his numbers up with men in order to be at parity with the president, because this is clearly his problem -- one of his problems in the state.

BLITZER: Real gender gap. David, what stands out to you?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it turned out to be, Wolf, I was in Ohio for a day earlier this week, and the polls all show, you know, that if you average them out, that President Obama maintains a slim lead, as we see in the CNN poll.

But what you hear on the ground from Republicans is a sense of confidence that the evangelical vote is going to be much more like 2004, when it lifted George W. Bush to victory in Ohio, than it was in 2008. And they think the absentee ballots that have been sent out for the first time to everybody across the state will make a difference. So we're in a very tight race. I don't think anybody knows, and it's all going to depend on turnout now.

BOLDUAN: And Ron, let's look ahead at the next few days. Just take a look at these itineraries that we've put together, just some of what we have confirmed right now, of the Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden itineraries. New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin. That's for Romney-Ryan. You look at Obama's campaign, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, Colorado. I feel like I'm repeating myself. What do these itineraries tell you?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And especially with repeated trips to Ohio and Wisconsin. First of all, it's important to underscore how historically unusual this situation is, where Ohio is the ultimate firewall for a Democrat, not a Republican. Usually, Republicans have seen it as their last line of defense in a close race.

In the last 90 years, Kate, only one Democrat has run even one point better than their national average in Ohio. But what you see in your poll today and in all of the polling in Ohio, is that in those critical upper Midwest battlegrounds, and I think Ohio and Wisconsin are the inner circle, the castle keep of the Obama strategy for reaching 270. They are running better among working class white voters there than anywhere else in the country. That explains their lead. That explains the big gender gap. They are much better with those working class white women than they are nationally.

Some auto bailout, some include the economy, and also the face that the Bain story, the idea of the corporate raider who comes down and shuts down the factory, has a lot more emotional resonance in places like that than it does in the Sun Belt.

Basically, we have an itinerary. We have two races going on at the end: one in the Rust Belt, one in the Sun Belt, and the president is counting on very different coalitions of each.

BLITZER: Gloria, what strikes you about the tone of this campaign in the final few days?

BORGER: The campaign is ending kind of the way that it's been, which is, it's sort of -- this has not been a campaign of great vision, of great talk about the future, of what you want to do for the country. This has been a campaign of negative ads, a very polarized electorate, which remains polarized, appealing to your base. It's a base election.

And what these candidates are doing are going out there, appealing to their bases, and the few independent voters that may be left who are undecided. But so what strikes me is that it's ending the way it's been, which is very kind of disappointing and uninspiring.

BOLDUAN: We were told that the rhetoric was -- they drew back the rhetoric a little bit over the past couple days because of the storm. And then today, I even said that it felt like it was pent up political rhetoric and it exploded.

BROWNSTEIN: David -- I'm sure David was in Ohio and I was in Ohio. And you really get the sense of the magnitude of the divide in this country. You have two coalitions that are utterly inimical in their demography and their priorities and yet are almost exactly equal in size. For the third time in the past four presidents' elections, We are going to divide almost exactly in half, and the challenge afterwards, I think is going to be how do we build any kind of working consensus for change in a country so racially and ideologically and along partisan lines divided?

BLITZER: I want to play this little clip of Romney today. David, listen to this, because he's making a pretty dire prediction here. Listen to this.


ROMNEY: The same path we're on means $20 trillion in debt in four years. It means crippling unemployment continues. It means stagnant take-home pay, depressed home values, and a devastated military, and unless we change course, we may well be looking at another recession.


BLITZER: What do you think, David? Another recession?

GERGEN: Well, another recession is unlikely unless we go over the fiscal cliff, and then it becomes extremely likely. He is trying to scare people here right at the end.

But what has impressed me, Wolf, is how much we've seen once again why being the incumbent, holding the White House is an advantage in the presidential election. You know, seven of the last ten incumbents have tried to come back to the White House a second time and have won.

And this past week, we saw with Hurricane Sandy, very unusual to have a storm this close to the election. But how well the president was able to use the office to do the right things and then get the wet kisses from Governor Christie, Mayor Bloomberg. An endorsement from Colin Powell, an OK jobs report. It gave him, I think, a little bit of an extra lift here in this last week.

It's very concerning to conservatives that, in the last three or four days, he's gotten a bit of a lift. And they're worried that the -- that not only has Romney stalled, but maybe the president has got a little momentum.

BLITZER: Do you think that helped him a little bit?

BORGER: Look, I think it's very hard to quantify, but when you see the president as the sort of pastor in chief and the commander in chief all at once, arms around Chris Christie, et cetera, et cetera, it certainly doesn't hurt him.

However, you know, Mitt Romney didn't misstep during this. He kind of held his fire, so he behaved properly. People, you know, can't criticize him for that, but I think in the end it only helps a view of the president.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We've got to leave it, unfortunately, right there. Ron has a great new piece in the new issue of "National Journal," as well. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: It's a living nightmare for many residents on Staten Island as we've been talking about, and we will talk about the greatest need, the government response, and more with a local journalist there. Coming up next.


BLITZER: Clearly a very tough decision. For the first time in the history of the New York City Marathon that started in 1970, the race is now cancelled. The marathon's director, Mary Wittenberg, was brought to tears when she made the official announcement at a news conference just a few minutes ago.


MARY WITTENBERG, DIRECTOR, NEW YORK CITY MARATHON: It is with incredibly heavy hearts today, tonight, that we share that the best way to help New York City at this time is to say that we will not be conducting the 2012 ING New York City Marathon.


BLITZER: A sad moment for her and all the organizers and I'm sure for a lot of runners. All the resources for the marathon, including water and blankets, will all now go to storm victims. There are also Web sites popping up from runners who want to donate their hotel rooms to storm victims, as well.

BOLDUAN: A long way to go. Some of the biggest opposition to the marathon came from Staten Island. At least 20 people have died there when a massive storm surge suddenly came on shore.

BLITZER: Claire Regan is the associate managing editor of the "Staten Island Advocate." She's joining us on the phone right now. Is it getting any better? Is the cavalry there yet, Claire?

CLAIRE REGAN, ASSOCIATE MANAGING EDITOR, "STATEN ISLAND ADVOCATE" (via phone): Yes, Wolf. Lots of response teams here today. FEMA, Red Cross, all the government agencies. The cry for help was heard.

BLITZER: And I assume people are relieved that the marathon has now been cancelled?

REGAN: Yes, there was quite a lot of opposition to it being voiced to us at the newspaper here. A big e-mail campaign. And I think Staten Islanders, especially, were concerned it would take the focus off of what is important right now with the recovery.

BOLDUAN: The homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, she visited State Island today. She also held a press conference. Let me play a sound bite of what she said.


JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We know that Staten Island took a particularly hard hit from Sandy, and so we want to make sure that the right resources are brought here and as quickly as possible to help this community, which is so very strong, recover even more quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: And one thing we've definitely been hearing from our reporters on the ground who are speaking to residents is that the federal government hadn't reacted quick enough, that FEMA wasn't there, didn't respond quick enough. Do you think FEMA has been quick enough to respond?

Regan: I think there was a delay on Staten Island. We're one of the five boroughs of New York City. We have often been referred to as the forgotten borough. There may have been a little of that in the beginning. I think once the word got out about the unspeakable devastation here, the response came. And also, some of our residents themselves spoke up to the media and reached out for help.

BOLDUAN: I think we're showing some pictures from your Web site, from your newspaper right now. You guys have really captured some really startling images of the devastation of the -- of the super storm. And as you've lived in Staten Island all of your life, what has it been like for you? What are you seeing? How would you describe it to someone who hasn't lived it?

REGAN: Staten Island, even though it's part of New York City, it is really a borough of neighborhoods, and one of our headlines the other day was "Will Staten Island ever be the same? Will life here ever be the same?" And if feels like it won't be. Some communities were basically wiped out, lived ruined, changed forever.

I was walking along the Midland Beach area earlier today, just seeing people trying to get their lives back together and salvage any belongings, your heart just goes out to them.

BLITZER: Claire, thanks so much for joining us. Claire Regan is the associate managing editor of "The Staten Island Advance [SIC]," ad they've been doing potentially prize-winning reporting on this story. Appreciate it very much, Claire.

BOLDUAN: All right. Erin Burnett also monitoring the situation on New York City's Staten Island. Erin, you -- what do you have at the top of the hour? Give us a preview.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we were out again today just to see what was happening, and Red Cross had started to come. People are feeling a little bit better about that.

Of course, there was great frustration at the marathon. We were at a hotel where they -- it was completely full of people who had lost their homes or power, and the hotel owner said, "Look, I can only give marathon runners a cot. I'm not going to give them any more." They are very relieved about this marathon news tonight, although of course bittersweet for so many.

We had talked about neighborhoods in Staten Island where we found they just weren't getting the help that they needed yesterday. Today another neighborhood in New York, Councilman Gregory Meeks, is going to be our guest. He was in that neighborhood, 50 percent of the people live below the poverty line. They haven't gotten what they needed, and he will tell us who they are and what they need. Coming up at the top of the hour, our special guest.

And when we were out there today, covering the wreckage, Wolf and Kate, we stumbled on a story that I just -- I'm so excited to share. It was a moment of joy. An entire family, they've lost their home, everyone they knew had lost their homes, and they're going ahead with their wedding today. And we went to the wedding. So that's coming up OUTFRONT tonight. We have that for you.

BOLDUAN: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," top of the hour. Thanks so much, Erin.

For more information about Sandy and what you can do to help those affected, check out

BOLDUAN: Coming up in Florida, we're going to take a personal look at a group that is overwhelmingly Democratic. The voters, this time, at least some of them up for grabs. We're taking a closer look at Florida's Jewish voters. Could they help put Mitt Romney in the winner's columns? Stand by.


BLITZER: At 8 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night, and all eyes will turn to Florida. That's when the last polling stations close. We'll watch to see who wins the state's 29 electoral votes.

President Obama just barely captured Florida in 2008 with 51 percent of the vote. George W. Bush took 52 percent in 2004. He won by 537 votes, though, in 2000 over Al Gore after millions of votes were counted. So who wins this time could boil down to a block of voters who usually are very reliably Democratic.

Let's go to CNN's John Zarrella who's in Miami. He's got a closer look for us -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, we are seeing a lot of television ads in south Florida. A lot of them, targeting Jewish voters, and that is something we have just not seen before.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Not all the talk in Florida this year revolves around the Hispanic vote and how it will decide which way the state goes. And it's not just about that stretch of asphalt between Tampa and Daytona beach in central Florida called the I-4 Corridor, where all the swing voters live.

Some say for the first time in memory, the deciding factor in Florida could well be a block of voters who have always been steadfast Democrats.

PROF. ROBERT WATSON, LYNN UNIVERSITY: There's no way a Democrat can win Florida today, statewide, without two things happening. One, a large turnout in the Jewish vote here in Southeast Florida, and secondly, an overwhelming Democratic vote in the Jewish community here in Southeast Florida. ZARRELLA: Romney backers are doing everything they can to peel away Jewish voters, especially in south Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Barack Obama.

ZARRELLA: There are television ads paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition featuring professed lifelong Jewish Democrats who've switched.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a big Obama supporter. Had a fund- raiser in my home and believed in what he stood for.

ZARRELLA: Romney fliers are stuffed in mailboxes. Along the turnpike and on Interstate 95, billboards read, quote, "Obama... oy vey!! Had enough?"

KURT STONE, RABBI: There's a Yiddish word, brechen. Brechen means to throw up. And when I see these, I want to pull off the road and brechen.

ZARRELLA: Rabbi Kurt Stone supports President Obama. He say the Republicans are pandering, and it's not going to work.

STONE: The notion that the first thing all Jewish voters look at is where a candidate stand on Israel, that is making a certain narrow view of the Jewish people that I find to be, A, not true, and B, it makes me angry.


ZARRELLA: The Obama campaign is taking the Republican challenge seriously, firing back with an ad focused on Israel.

OBAMA: Our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.

ZARRELLA: The co-chairman of a group called Florida Democrats for Romney says it's absolutely not all about Israel.

ROGER WISHNER, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: I think we need to look at this as a business, and we need to put somebody in there that can run this country and bring pack the jobs.

ZARRELLA: Four years ago, Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote. Political scientists say the GOP attacks could cost the president as much as 5 percent of that support, the equivalent of about 25,000 votes. In a close election, perhaps the difference.


ZARRELLA: Now, Jewish people make up about 3.5 percent of the state's residents, but 8 percent of the voters. So that's a significant bloc -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Zarrella, good report. Thanks very much. BOLDUAN: Make sure to join us and the entire CNN team for election night in America. Our continuous live coverage begins at 6 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: One of the remnants of Superstorm Sandy is dangling high over New York City, and crowds are lining up to see it. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a new addition to New York's skyline making it hard to resist looking up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's amazing it hasn't fallen down yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems to just be dangling in the wind.

MOOS: The crane that has pedestrians craning their necks was caught on camera during its partial collapse, like a modern-day Sword of Damocles hanging over Manhattan's 57th Street. It had newscasters riveted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so eerie that this is happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are afraid that, when that crane goes, it could be bouncing off of other buildings around here.

MOOS: Destined to be the tallest residential apartment building in New York City, with $90 million penthouses, it now has the air of infamy. Police have closed off the streets below, as engineers figure out when the weather makes it safe to strap the drooping boom to the building.

Cathy Stepp (ph) and her husband were in a hotel room across from the crane as she talked on the phone.

CATHY STEPP (PH), WITNESS: I was telling my mom I was safe, and at that minute, I heard the crane go over. Crunch. I said, "Honey, you'd better look out the window."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Stepps (ph) were evacuated to another hotel.

Donald Trump has a view of the crane out his window. He's even with it, and he told CNBC it was left at too upright an angle.

DONALD TRUMP, REAL-ESTATE MOGUL: And they didn't tie it down. That crane was not tied down.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY: They're not supposed to be tethered. That's quite the contrary. They're supposed to be free and weather vane.

TRUMP: Somebody made a big mistake.

BLOOMBERG: It's conceivable that nobody did anything wrong whatsoever and that it wasn't even a malfunction; it was just a strange gust of wind.

MOOS: That turned into a strange gale of notoriety for a swaying mass of metal that even has a hurry up and get that hurri-crane out of there.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...


MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: And don't forget, with only four days to go, three days to go, a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow night, 6 p.m. Eastern.

BOLDUAN: Don't miss it.