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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

America's Choice 2012; Political Fallout from Superstorm Sandy

Aired November 5, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

And welcome to our special coverage of the 2012 election, coming to you live from the nation's capital.

Just 24 hours to go before voting begins, after a 17-month $3 billion race for the White House, it could not be any closer. The final CNN poll before the election shows a dead heat, a tie.

Both candidates making their closing arguments in key states that could decide the election.

Best political team on TV has it covered for you this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.

The candidates cramming today -- President Obama, Mitt Romney, and their running mates making 18 stops in eight critical states, with polls showing plenty of voters still have not made up their minds. We are live in every key battleground state.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And in the end, this is the only math that counts.

I'm Christine Romans. Looking to the race to the 270, eight states still up for grabs in the final day. We're going to take a look at the road each candidate could take to get to that magic number.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

It has been one week since hurricane Sandy forever changed the East Coast and so many lives along it with. The recovery effort and how the storm is impacting polling stations. That's coming up.

O'BRIEN: We've got a packed show for you this morning, four hours. Among our guests, Ohio Senator Rob Portman will be joining us, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, and Arizona Senator John McCain is with us. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers is our guest, Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter, former White House press secretary Bill Burton all joining us this morning.

And we're counting down the final hours of a marathon battle for the White House, just too close to call today. This morning, after 17 months of campaigning and nearly $3 billion spent, it has come down to this. A brand new CNN/ORC vote of likely voters which was released last night shows that Mitt Romney and President Obama are in a tie, 49 percent apiece. Both candidates are targeting now the must-win swing states on this final full day of campaigning.

The president accompanied by rocker Bruce Springsteen holding rallies in Madison, Wisconsin, in Columbus, Ohio, in Des Moines, Iowa. Governor Romney has been in Stanford, Florida, Lynchberg and Fairfax, Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, and Manchester, New Hampshire.

And it would not be an election without a legal mess in Florida. The state's Democratic Party suing to extend early voting hours with voters reporting lines up to seven hours long at some south Florida early polling stations. But at the end of the day, tomorrow, it will all possibly be about Ohio. The president holding a slim lead in the Buckeye State in the polls.

In this exclusive interview with CNN, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio says he believes that his state could just swing red.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Polls don't win the elections, voters do. Listen, I've been around Ohio. I've done this trip around Ohio for a lot of presidential races in the past. And I think Ohioans vote with their wallets. That's why I think Romney is going to win on Tuesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So, we're blanketing the battlegrounds which are expected to decide the next president with our CNN reporters. John Berman, of course, following that for us this morning.

John, what are you specifically looking at?

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad.

First up is Florida. Swing state considered a must win particularly for Mitt Romney. The most recent polling there has been mixed with some showing a Romney lead. Some polls showing the president's on top.

We're going to turn to CNN's John Zarrella who joins us now from Plantation, Florida.

John, what's the latest?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, it is Florida. So, you know it is going to be very close. In that CNN/ORC poll, it shows Governor Romney at 50 percent and the president at 49 percent. It can't get much closer than that.

Now, the president did come to Florida yesterday. He was down here in south Florida, making one more swing through the state, stopping at McArthur High School in Hollywood. Hollywood, Florida, and Broward County, one of the big staunch Democratic areas in the state, along with Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County. The president has to carry those areas with huge numbers if he has a chance to win in Florida.

Now, Governor Romney did not come down to Florida yesterday or over the weekend. But he will, of course, be in Florida today. And as you mentioned earlier in the broadcast, there have been problems, it's Florida, early voting ended on Saturday night. But the lines were so incredibly long that a lot of people stood for four, five, and six hours.

The Democratic Party Sunday morning filed suit in federal court asking for injunctive relief, saying that people were denied meaningful opportunities to vote and they were hoping that offices in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach would be open on Sunday. In fact, the supervisors in the three counties did on their own open those offices. But in Miami-Dade County, huge problems. Only one printer at the supervisor of elections office where people could go to file an absentee ballot. The office was open, then closed, then opened again.

So, John, once again, it's Florida. And once again, there are issues.

BERMAN: So, John, what's the solution here? What's going to happen today? Is there any resolution to this problem or is the early voting over and the voters have to show up on Tuesday?

ZARRELLA: Technically, early voting is over and ended. But people will still be allowed today to go to the supervisor election offices in many of the counties around Florida and file an absentee ballot. That is what they did in the three counties in Miami as well as up in the Orlando area in Orange County.

BERMAN: All right, thanks so much, John.

Now to Colorado. The president had a rally there last night. Mitt Romney had one the day before. The race in Colorado is also very, very close. The final CNN/ORC poll has the president ahead, 50 to 48.

We want to go now to Ed Lavandera who is in Denver, Colorado.

Ed, what's the latest there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John.

You know, what's interesting here in Colorado is that majority of voters have already cast their votes, 1.6 million registered voters out of 3.6 million registered in this state have already cast their vote. So far in that early voting, according to the secretary of state's office here in Colorado, 38,000 more Republicans voted than Democrats.

But the interesting number is that some 500,000 independent voters also have voted early. That is the key here in this state of Colorado. The two-counties surrounding the city of Denver is what they call the swing counties here. And everyone you talk to say it will all boil down to the swing voters in those counties to determine who wins Colorado's nine electoral votes. So the push is on. Both sides will tell that you they're not so much worried about it at this point, trying to flip any kind of undecided voters, sway any undecided voters over to their side. Right now, the focus is on getting that voter turnout out to the polls at this point. President Barack Obama won this state in 2008. He seems to have the ground advantage here in Colorado. Some 65 field offices compared to 14 for Governor Romney -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Ed Lavandera in Denver, Colorado, just one of the swing states we're watching.

At the bottom of the hour, we're going to take you to two battlegrounds, Nevada and Wisconsin. First, back to Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John. Thank you.

At the end of the day, it's all going to be about the math. In order to win, you have to hit the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Let's get to Christine Romans who is crunching those numbers for us.

Hey, Christine. Good morning.

ROMANS: The race, Soledad, to 270. What if it were a draw at 269? It's possible. It's a long shot but possible. Soledad, there are four 269 scenarios if you only take into account the swing states. Statistically, there are 120 different scenarios, but four with the swing states.

Now, I want to look at one of them. This is hypothetical, remember. Our map is assuming that states that are actually leaning go in the direction that they're leaning right now. And for the swing states, if Wisconsin, Ohio, and New Hampshire, New Hampshire with the four electoral votes, if they go for Obama, and Romney wins Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, and the 29 over there in Florida, then you're at a tie. Worst nightmare for both parties, 269 each.

Now a note for Iowa here, this is assuming it goes red, it goes for Romney with the six electoral votes. The recent polls there showing a slight lead, actually, for Obama. If Wisconsin and Ohio vote Democrat, you know, technically you could think -- you could conclude that Iowa could go in that direction, too. Again, this is a hypothetical.

If there is an Electoral College tie, the House decides who's president. The senate decides who the vice president is. Imagine the scenario where the House would support Romney and Democrats would still hold the Senate, and support Joe Biden. It would be absolutely chaos, cats and dogs, I'll tell you.

But 269, 269, four different scenarios for that with the swing states. A lot of people crunching the numbers, we're having a little fun crunching the numbers as we're just one day out -- Zoraida. Soledad, sorry.

O'BRIEN: That would make a very long election night for all of us and all of America, really. All right. Christine, thank you. I want to get right to Zoraida Sambolin. She's got a look at some of the other stories making news in this hour. Good morning, Z.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. So one week after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, more than 1.5 million power customers in 15 states are still in the dark this morning. At least 110 deaths are also blamed on the storm.

Along New Jersey's devastated coastline, cleanup is under way. But it is a long road ahead for them. Bulldozers are being used to haul away piles of debris. Housing is a major issue in New Jersey and New York because of damage, lack of power, and falling temperatures now.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said they are trying to come up with a plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) NEW YORK CITY: The magnitude of the problem is we think we could have something between 30,000 and 40,000 people that we're going to have to find housing for. We are working on it. We will continue to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: The Red Cross reports that more than 10,000 people in nine states spent Saturday night in shelters.

And tragedy at the Pittsburgh zoo where a 2-year-old boy was killed Sunday by a pack of rare African painted dogs. The toddler was visiting the zoo with his mother and friends when he fell 14 feet off the deck and into the exhibit area. The pack of dogs pounced on the boy and mauled him. A zookeeper was able to quickly clear away seven of the 11 dogs and police actually shot another one but it was just too late to save that little boy.

And trouble during NASCAR's prerace ceremony Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. A skydiver, look at that, came down a bit to close to Kevin Harvick's parked number 29 Chevy. The skydiver was fine but a sandbag attacked to his Texas flag dinged up the car. Harvick went on to finish ninth in the AAA Texas 500.

And with the presidential conditioned dates making the closing arguments to voters, you knew "SNL" had to get into the action in the closing days of the campaigns. Here's how they handled Mitt Romney's past remarks about FEMA.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a comment I made during a Republican primary debate. OK? That's like judging a person's behavior while they're pledging a fraternity. OK?

OK, look, now you can't hold a man -- or a woman, to what he -- to what he -- or she said at a Republican primary debate. OK? I want to make it clear that when I said we should get rid of FEMA, it was sunny.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Just a little fun in politics for you this morning.

O'BRIEN: "SNL" has been doing a really great job of

SAMBOLIN: Yes, they have.

O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) good candidates to make the race.

Zoraida, thank you.

Coming up next, we're going to take a closer look to the battleground states. Which sides will the delegates swing with the polls in a dead heat?

We're back after this. We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C., with our special coverage back this morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back to our special election coverage. We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C., this morning.

Let's bring in Ana Navarro. She's a Republican strategist. She was the national Hispanic chair for the Huntsman and McCain campaigns. Roland Martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV One.

Let's start by talking about the swing states. You saw a moment ago, Christine was walking us through different scenarios.

Should we start with the state of Florida? Your state, the state of Florida. We've seen polls kind of go both ways. Which way is it going to go?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think it's too close to call. It feels a lot different this year than it did four years ago.

O'BRIEN: How so?

NAVARRO: There's a lot more money. You know, four years ago, McCain ran out of money. This is one of the big differences we're seeing I think in all of the swing states is that Romney and Obama are fairly evenly matched on the money race.

And so, we're seeing an avalanche of ads up to the very end. There is money both by President Obama and Mitt Romney for ground game. We're seeing that.

We're seeing, I would say, a lot more activity from the Romney camp. It's something that they understand is a must-win.

But Democrats, President Obama is still fighting it to the very end. He was there yesterday. We had Bill Clinton barnstorming. He could have been running for governor just a couple days ago.

O'BRIEN: So, it's a tossup.

NAVARRO: It's a tossup.

O'BRIEN: How about the state of Ohio? Yes?

ROLAND MARTIN, "WASHINGTON WATCH WITH ROLAND MARTIN": But here's the deal also with Florida, but you also see effects of voter suppression. You saw the ridiculous long lines in Florida over the weekend.

O'BRIEN: Eight hours.

MARTIN: Frankly, Governor Rick Scott should be ashamed for them cutting the early voting days and also him barring voting on Sunday. That clearly was targeting African-American churches and others who turned out in massive numbers on Sunday.

And so, a turnout is going to be the key. You see the exact same thing happening in Ohio. Decisions made by the secretary of state also that are all about suppression of vote as well.

So, I can hear Republicans say anything they want to. But when you are purposely trying to cut hours and trying to restrict folks, you are trying to impact democracy.

O'BRIEN: Where do we stand on the early voting? Maybe it's me. But it seems this year the story of early voting and long lines is much different than we had in 2008.

BERMAN: Well, early voting is up in general. A lot more people are voting. But Democrats' edge in early voting isn't as big as it was. The Republicans sort of caught on to the magic of early voting and closed the gap a little.

The question is, is it enough? If you look at state like Nevada, the president won Nevada by 12 percent four years ago. This time, his early voting is smaller. But is there a need to win by 12 percent? He only needs to win by one vote.

O'BRIEN: When you talk about you're going through the swing states, really it's the state of Ohio. Is that true all roads go through Ohio for the Romney campaign?

ROMANS: I mean, yes. It's really critical there. You look at the different scenarios you need again for Mitt Romney to take Ohio, there are scenarios that we'll show you some later on. There are scenarios where he can win without Ohio, but that takes everything else. That means he's got to get Florida. He's got to get everything else basically that's now leaning or tossup to make that happen.

O'BRIEN: Zoraida --

SAMBOLIN: What I thought was interesting, we were talking about this earlier, Roland Martin and I, I actually read an article where Ana was quoted on it. It's a Latino vote in Ohio that you never talk about. This election is so close that we are talking about Latinos in Ohio, and how they could potentially impact this vote.

NAVARRO: What I said, Soledad, is that if we really want to get immigration done, some of us have to just take it for the cause, put on some coats and move to Ohio.

MARTIN: Of course, nationally, the problem is President Obama is leading Mitt Romney 50 plus points among Latinos. I never forget the GOP debate we saw when they asked a question, what should the GOP do to attract Latino, they begin to have a discussion about building a wall. And I'm sitting there going, that's not the answer you want to get.

O'BRIEN: The rhetoric might be a little --

NAVARRO: That's true everywhere except in Florida. In Florida, President Obama is in trouble, a lot of trouble with Cuban-Americans. He is not where he was four years ago.

Four years ago, he got upwards of 30 percent of the Cuban-American vote. He's got a huge gap this year. If Mitt Romney --

O'BRIEN: But you're going to Ohio, put you're on coat, right?

NAVARRO: I'm the American, you're the Cuban.

O'BRIEN: My people are from New Jersey.

MARTIN: Or Long Island.

NAVARRO: If Mitt Romney wins Florida, he owes it big to the Cubans.

O'BRIEN: I'm the global citizen.

Moving on. Up next, frustration continues to mount in the wake of Sandy. Long lines for gas, testing patience in some of those hardest hit areas.

Plus, lots of conclusion about how to vote if your neighborhood is destroyed. We'll chat with Christine Romans about that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to special election coverage live here in Washington, D.C.

Minding your business this morning. A quick check of the markets now. Futures are up ahead of the opening bell and a closer look at what happened in stocks overall.

I've got to tell you, the stock market is up 75 percent since President Obama took office. A lot of folks are talking about the high unemployment rate, 7.8 percent, 7.9 percent the unemployment rate. Difficulty of being re-elected with such high unemployment. But stocks have done very, very well. Now I want to talk about the long lines in Sandy's wake for gas. This is a huge financial story in the Northeast. You have these lines still very long.

And despite all of the assurances of many, many politicians over the past few days that this would be cleared up in a couple days, a few days, it has not been. The lines are still very long for gas. And patience is very short. You have police resources, law enforcement resources being diverted to keep order in these lines and you have people very upset that because of power outages at the pumps, the pumps can't operate and disruptions from actual deliveries of oil.

Here's what's so interesting, Soledad. We have plenty of gasoline. It is in big, huge facilities below the ground, millions of gallons of gas. We just can't get to it.

A couple things they're doing in New Jersey. They have a system linking -- an even-odd system linking your license plate number to the day that you can get gas. Still, lines are two, three, four hours long for gas.

And the federal government is going to bring in 12 million gallons of unleaded gas to hard hit areas still trying to really -- still trying to stage kind of a recovery in terms of getting a lot of that gasoline to this hard hit area.

But it has been very slow, Soledad, getting these lines down. People are still very, very distraught over this situation and it continues today in the Northeast.

O'BRIEN: Yes, there, especially those areas, you need gas to get around. You need power to get the gas out of the ground.

All right. Christine Romans watching it for us -- thank you, Christine.

CNN's special election coverage continues live from Washington, D.C.

Coming up next, we'll tell you how Superstorm Sandy could impact the election still.

Two newspapers in New York City out as well this morning with some surprising endorsements. We'll take a look at those, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

One final plea for votes that America decides. Welcome back to CNN's special election coverage. We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C., this morning.

Just one day to go until the polls open nationwide, the battle for the White House could not be any tighter than it s take a look at the numbers. A brand new CNN/ORC voter of likely voters has Mitt Romney and President Obama in a dead heat at 49 percent apiece. Today, both candidates are targeting the crucial swing states that will decide this election.

The president, along with rocker Bruce Springsteen will hold rallies today in Madison, Wisconsin, in Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa.

Governor Romney has events in Sanford, Florida, Lynchburg and Fairfax, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio and Manchester, New Hampshire.

New Jersey and New York, it's Superstorm Sandy that has election officials scrambling to try to relocate some of those polling stations, also in some cases bring generators to other polling stations and it's not clear just how much the storm aftermath is going to impact voter turnout on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, "The Daily News" and "Newsday," two New York newspapers that backed President Obama back in 2008, are now endorsing Governor Romney. "Newsday's" editorial board says this, "Had Barack Obama done the job of president with the same passion and vision he displayed in seeking it, he would likely deserve another term. He did not."

We've got a packed show for you this morning. Among our guests, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Florida Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, Arizona Senator John McCain, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter, and former White House press secretary Bill Burton all our guests this morning.

Both campaigns now trying to rev up voter turnout with a final sprint across the swing states. John Berman is following that for us. Good morning.

BERMAN: Hey, Soledad. Let's start with Nevada, one of the key swing states with the six electoral votes. It is one of the battlegrounds targeted by both the Obama and the Romney campaigns. Here's the thing, hundreds of thousands of people there have already cast their ballots with a huge early vote.

I'm joined now by my friend, CNN, Miguel Marquez, who is in Las Vegas. Hey, Miguel. What's the latest there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Record numbers of voters here already early voting there, John. The "Las Vegas Journal Review" review, the things are looking good for the president. "Las Vegas Journal Review" that endorsed Romney actually has the president up 50 to 46 percent. The "USA Today" now has the president up by seven percent here on those early voters.

More Democrats came out and requested ballots than Republicans by spread of 44 to 37 percent. Paul Ryan is back in the state up Washoe County that is a must win for the Republicans in early voting. The Democrats are up there as well, it seems. Obama's superior organization here in the state is helping him out at this point.

Republican National Committee has expressed concern about voting fraud here in the state. They sent a letter to the secretary of state who responded to those concerns. But over late last week, a woman was arrested here for trying to vote twice. As it turns out, she was a Republican. It's not clear who she was trying to vote for, but they're making -- taking every precaution possible to assure the voters that the voting machines here are safe and that the vote will go well here -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Miguel Marquez, live on the Vegas strip. Now to Wisconsin where President Obama holds the first of three rallies today. Now, Wisconsin's voted blue since 1984, but some of the margins have been razor thin. John Kerry won by just 11,000 votes in 2004, Al Gore by less than 6,000, and the Romney campaign hopes that with native son Paul Ryan on the ticket, they can take it back.

I'm joined now by Ted Rowlands, who is live in Milwaukee. What's it like on the ground there now, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, to be honest, the Romney-Ryan folks here on the ground in Wisconsin acknowledge that this is going to be an uphill battle. All the latest polling has the president up. One poll has him up eight point, but they do think that they can make up that ground. Unlike the ground game Miguel talked about in Nevada, here in Wisconsin, it is very strong on the wake of that gubernatorial recall with Scott Walker.

I talked to Governor Scott Walker at an event yesterday, and he truly believes that turnout is going to be incredibly high and they'll make up that difference. The Obama campaign not taking any chances. They're offering volunteers to come up from the state of Illinois to help them out in return. They'll get a ticket to Tuesday night's campaign party in Chicago.

As you mentioned, the president will be in Madison, Wisconsin, today. Paul Ryan will finish his day of campaigning here in his home state at an event in Milwaukee -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Ted Rowlands live in the ground in Milwaukee.

Now, it's important to remember that the presidential race is not the only contest tomorrow. The entire House of Representatives on the ballot, also 33 Senate races to talk about, which is why I'm walking in front of my friend, Christine Romans, who's at the magic wall right now with a look at the Senate.

ROMANS: Yes. It's really interesting, because you've got a couple of things we're watching here, not just that big national race. The backdrop here is the presidential results from 2008, if you're wondering here. And I want to go inside one of the most hotly contested House and Senate races.

Let's start in Massachusetts. This one, John, as you know, is so interesting. Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown, Democrats hope that Warren's advocacy for the middle class are going to help take Scott Brown's seat in Mitt Romney's home state. That one is going to really be interesting. Let's move down to Virginia now because this one, you and I were just talking about this one. How are the polls looking for this race? Two veterans going for retiring Senator Jim Webb's seat. How is the poll? Still tight?

BERMAN: Ever so slightly tipping in Tim Kaine's favor right now, the Democrat.

ROMANS: It's still a really, really tight race. OK. So, let's move on. Let's take a look at Missouri, because this one, wow. This one has been impossible to ignore. Claire McCaskill who look like she was going to be a one-term Democrat in a pretty conservative state until, of course, Congressman Todd Akin who was going for that seat made those comments now about legitimate rape.

So, this has become a very tight race, as well, and she has found new life in her campaign. Let's take a look at some couple of House races. In Illinois, this one -- oops. I just lost Illinois. Let me just hit it right there. It's coming out. All right. So, Tammy Duckworth and Joe Walsh, that's a very competitive race overall. There it is.

Tammy Duckworth and Joe Walsh, that's a very -- he's really high on the list of endangered Republicans. He came in in that wave a couple of years ago. She's an Iraq war vet, lost both her legs in the war. She ran in 2006, didn't make it, but now, she's kind of a rising star overall on the party.

And let's go back over to my home state of Iowa, because there's a really interesting race here, as well. This one is Christie Vilsack who is the former first lady of Iowa. Also, her husband is very close to the Obama administration. He's in the Obama administration, Steve King. He's going for a sixth time in the Senate. It's a redrawn district over here. It's pretty red.

BERMAN: Very red.

ROMANS: It's pretty red -- but it is still a competitive race.

BERMAN: And one of the things about Illinois it was talking about right now, Illinois key that Democrats want to pick up any House seats in this election, the Democrats not feeling as good as they once did about major gains in Illinois.

ROMANS: All right. Thirty-six minutes after the hour. Now, over to Zoraida Sambolin for a look at some of the other stories making news today. Hi, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): It was one week ago today that Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast. The storm is now blamed for at least 110 deaths that's in the United States alone. And this morning, more than 1.5 million power customers are still in the dark. And with the falling temperatures, housing is a major issue in all of those devastated communities.

The Red Cross reports that more than 10,000 people in nine states spent Saturday night in a shelter.

And now, there is a brand new worry, a nor'easter is in the forecast for the East Coast. That is this week. The National Weather Service says the track and timing of the storm is still uncertain that it warns that it could pack wind gusts above 45 miles per hour, bring heavy rain, maybe snow, and it could cause coastal flooding and beach erosion on the heels of Sandy.

And tragedy during an aerial search for a missing nine-year-old boy. Two police officers were killed on impact Saturday night when their helicopter crashed just miles from downtown Atlanta. Both were fathers themselves. No one was hurt on the ground. The crash knocked out electricity to 1,300 households. The missing boy, well, he was later found safe.

And with America less than two months from hitting the fiscal cliff, House speaker, John Boehner, says don't expect a permanent fix from this lame duck Congress. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Speaker Boehner says the best we can hope for is something temporary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: Lame duck Congresses aren't known for doing big things. And frankly, lame duck Congresses probably shouldn't do big things. So, I think the best you can hope for is some kind of a bridge, some kind of a temporary push back of the sequester, and then, we've got the debt limit right behind it in February.

So, I would think that will be the best you could hope for. And even that is going to be very difficult to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Congress faces an end of the year deadline before spending cuts kick in and tax breaks begin to expire.

Sunday night football action. The Atlanta Falcons beat the Dallas cowboys 19-13 at 8-0 Atlanta is now the only undefeated team in the NFL, and they did it the hard way on the strength of four field goals from Matt Bryant.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And coming up, hurricane Sandy could have a big effect on Election Day. We'll take you live next to a high school that's doubling as a shelter for Sandy evacuees. And come tomorrow, it will also be a polling place. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 41 minutes past the hour. This is our live coverage from Washington, D.C. Political fallout from Superstorm Sandy, some polling sites in New York City are being relocated or combined because of the storm damage. And voters in some counties may get an extra day to cast their ballots if disruptions from the storm keep enough of them from showing up.

Alina Cho is at a high school in Brooklyn that is actually doubling as a shelter for Sandy evacuees. And tomorrow, it will also be a voting site. Alina, how are preparations going there?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, good morning. We should mention first off that New York City public school students will be heading back to school today for the first time since hurricane Sandy except at schools like the one behind me. We're at Brooklyn Tech High School, as you mentioned.

Right now, it is serving as an emergency shelter for those with special medical needs. I was just inside, and I'm happy to report that the heat is on. It is working. It's quite toasty inside, as a matter of fact. We're told that evacuees are staying on cots inside classrooms throughout the school.

But you're right. Tomorrow, it will double as a polling site. And in that way, it is unique. It is the only school in New York City that will double as a shelter and a polling station. Now, the city's board of elections in the wake of Sandy has actually been forced to either combine or relocate about 60 polling sites throughout the city.

And in a move that could be unprecedented in some New York counties, especially on Long Island, voters may actually get an extra day to cast ballots if voter turnout is less than 25 percent. But for now, Mayor Bloomberg says the most pressing concern is housing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: The magnitude of the problem is we think we could have something between 30 and 40,000 people that we're going to have to find housing for. We are working on it. We will continue to get this done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: The mayor admits he doesn't know yet how they will get that done, but they will find a way. And the reality is they must find a way. Tonight, the temperatures will be below freezing. And Zoraida, on Wednesday, as you know, New York could get socked with a nor'easter.

Mayor Bloomberg says make no mistake about it, you can die from being cold. And he says if there's any doubt about where to go, just stop a cop and ask.

SAMBOLIN: Actually, there was somebody who did die because of the cold. They stayed in their home overnight. And I know we're following that nor'easter very carefully. Alina Cho live in Brooklyn for us, thank you very much. It's a really scary situation there. What are they going to do with all those displaced people? There are so many. O'BRIEN: And so many of them are still suffering. Many people in Manhattan and New Jersey have moved on if they weren't affected, but for lots of people, it's still a terrible, terrible scene. All right. Zoraida, thank you.

Still ahead, we'll take a closer look at hurricane Sandy and ask this question, did it break Governor Romney's momentum? The governor says it did. Well, he says President Obama is going to be reaping the rewards of that. We'll discuss that up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching our special election coverage coming to you live from the nation's capital. Let's get right back to Ana Navarro. She's a Republican strategist. She was a national Hispanic chair for the Huntsman and McCain campaigns. Roland Martin is the host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin" on TV1. Nice to have you both back with us.

Roland, let's start with you. Hurricane Sandy --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: If I have to say, if you get along too much, I'm going to have to separate you. Hurricane Sandy, advantage Obama some say. Haley Barbour has said that he thinks that it was able to put a stop to the momentum from Governor Romney. I want to run a little clip of what he said. Let's play that first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. HALEY BARBOUR, (R) MISSISSIPPI: The hurricane is what broke Romney's momentum.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think that as well?

BARBOUR: Oh, I don't think there's any question about it. Any day that the news media is not talking about jobs and the economy, taxes and spending, deficits and debt, Obamacare and energy, is a good day for Barack Obama.

When you have a blackout, you had a blackout on all of those issues that started about last Saturday and lasted until about yesterday, that is what really was good for Barack Obama. Now, whether it'd be good enough remains to be seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: We discussed this on TV1 (ph) yesterday, and we say it, President Obama has to be one of the luckiest politicians ever. Absolutely a help. It pretty much froze the race for four days, possibly five days. And so, for him to have the stage to himself, to be able to again to rise above the political process, absolutely, it helped him.

And I think if you're Mitt Romney, you couldn't do anything. There's nothing you could really do campaign-wise to really stop that. and so, of course, it helped the president in a huge way.

NAVARRO: You know, President Obama didn't have a stage to himself. He had to share it with Chris Christie. And that in itself was --

O'BRIEN: Who helped him out hugely, right?

NAVARRO: I think so. But I also think, you know, it helped Chris Christie and it helped President Obama, because I'm a hurricane survivor. I'm from Florida. When you are in a post devastation period, what you want to do is see the feds, your state, your local officials working together, getting your issues solved.

And that's I think -- they did what they had to do. We've had a couple of big changes in this election. First debate, stopped Obama's momentum. Second game changer was, I think, Sandy. And it was -- it ended up being our October surprise.

O'BRIEN: How about some of the confusion? You heard Alina was telling Zoraida a few minutes ago about a new polling station and how that's a school, but it's also a place where they're putting people up and it's also going to be polling stations. Does that ultimately potentially hurt the election?

BERMAN: You're dealing with states, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, the ones that were the hardest hit which are not up for grabs really in the general election for president --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And the Senate. The Senate race -- it could affect the Senate race in Connecticut, but really, these are states where President Obama should be able to win with a very large margin. What's interesting, though, is one state where the media market does bleed into is Pennsylvania.

You know, so much in New Jersey was hit by the hurricane. The president's visit there with Chris Christie. A lot of people saw that on TV were in Pennsylvania and key media markets there. And if that race is competitive, the president's presence in New Jersey may help him.

NAVARRO: How much do you think it affects the total popular vote, the number of popular vote? How much might that mean for President Obama?

BERMAN: I see some accounts where as many as 300,000 people might not show up to the polls, because they can't --

ROMANS: You've been spending all this time waiting in line for gasoline. You don't exactly know where your polling place is.

O'BRIEN: Which you've been doing.

ROMANS: Which I have personally been doing. And you know, you think about all that time spent waiting in line just for the basic necessities of life, it makes you a little less enthusiastic about going out and trying to figure out where you're going to vote. People are just trying to get warm right now.

MARTIN: You also see why it's important for a governor to have the authority to be able to some make changes. Governor Christie said you're able to fax in your ballot. That was critical.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: My whole point, though, is you have an alternative to being able to vote.

ROMANS: Right.

MARTIN: And so, you're able to create that sort of system, that helps. And again, that is the problem, of course, in Florida. Florida governor doesn't have that sort of authority. And again, that's where it helps to have that sort of flexibility any time of an emergency.

NAVARRO: Actually, you do have -- the Florida governor does have that authority for national -- for state -- state of emergency. It's just a long line doesn't qualify as --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We can spend a lot of time talking about the lines of Florida. That will be a topic a little bit later. And of course, you can watch our complete coverage and analysis tomorrow night right here on CNN. We kick off at 6:00 p.m. eastern.

And as America picks a new president, voters in several states will also be deciding on some ballot measures for hot button issues like same-sex marriage, medical marijuana. We'll take a closer look, that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to our special election coverage live from D.C. One day to go before Election Day, and we have lots of important election stories to report, including a number of measures. Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in three states tomorrow. Voters in Maine, Maryland, and Washington will decide whether or not to legalize it in their states.

If it passes in any of them, it will be the first time same-sex marriage was made legal through a popular vote. Legislation or court orders have made it legal in six states so far.

Voters in three states, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado will consider measures that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The proposals would allow adults to possess small amounts of pot subject to state regulation and taxes. If the plan goes through in any of those states, it could set up a battle with the federal government.

And voters in Massachusetts will decide whether to allow physician assisted suicide. If the so-called death with dignity initiative is approved, Massachusetts would become one of three states to allow it along with Washington and Oregon.

A terminally ill patient would be able to obtain lethal doses of medication if a doctor determines they have six months or less to live.

And voters in Florida, Alabama, Montana, and Wyoming will decide on a key component of President Obama's health care law. They will consider measures which would prevent individuals and businesses from being compelled to participate in a health care system. So, this is considered a symbolic move since new proposals violate existing federal law.

California voters will consider a ballot measure that would abolish the state's death penalty. If Proposition 34 goes through, more than 700 death row inmates would have their sentences commuted to life in prison without parole.

And with all the buzz about the bromance between President Obama and NEw Jersey governor, Chris Christie, in the wake of superstorm Sandy, you knew it would not take long for "Saturday Night Live" to add its two cents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I would like to give a sincere thanks to President Obama for how he handled the situation on Election Day. I'm voting for Mitt Romney, but if I had to pick one guy to have my back in a crisis, it would be Barack Obama. He's been amazing. You know, so kind, such a leader, a true inspiration. Again, I'll be a good soldier. I'll vote for Romney, but I'm going to hate him,

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Mitt Romney also on the receiving end of some spoofing. We'll have that for you a little later this morning.

Much more ahead as a special edition of EARLY START continues right now on CNN live from Washington, D.C.

O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Welcome to our special coverage of the 2012 election. We're coming to you live from the nation's capital just 24 hours to go before voting begins after a 17-month, $3 billion race for the White House. It could not be any closer.

The final CNN poll before the election shows a dead heat, a tie. Both candidates making their closing arguments in those key states that could decide the election.

Best political team on TV has it covered for you this morning.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. And down the stretch they come, President Obama and Mitt Romney and their running mates making 14 stops in eight critical states with polls still showing plenty of voters have still not made up their minds. We are live in every key battleground state.

ROMANS: And in the end, this is the only math that will count. I'm Christine Romans, looking at the race to 270. Eight states are still up for grabs in the final day. We're going to look at the road each candidate could take to hit that magic number.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It has been one week since hurricane Sandy, and now, some shelters in the disaster zone are doubling as polling stations. The recovery effort and how the storm may impact votes.

O'BRIEN: We've got packed four hours ahead for you. Among our guest this morning, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Florida Congressman Mario Diaz Balart, Arizona Senator John McCain, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter, and former White House press secretary Bill Burton all joining us this morning.

Our special coverage begins right now.