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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

New Storm for Sandy-Hit Areas; Congress: Compromise or Confrontation?; Up in the Air; The Political Path Forward

Aired November 8, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is the last thing we need. People slammed by Sandy now dealing with a nasty new storm of gusty winds, rain, and snow.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Compromise or confrontation? Both sides in Congress promise to work together to head off fiscal disaster, even as they disagree over how to do it.

BERMAN: And up in the air. We're going on two days now since the election with several House races still too close to call. It is not over yet, everyone.

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

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And up first, of course, we're going to start with Mother Nature. She is showing absolutely no mercy. This morning, the Northeast is getting rocked again. It is a powerful nor'easter pounding a region already devastated by superstorm Sandy.

More than 600,000 people without power for nine days in New York and New Jersey. Some forced to evacuate or hunker down overnight in the face of 60-mile an hour winds, two to four foot storm surge and a half foot of snow.

More than 1,000 flights were canceled in New York and Philadelphia. The path train between New Jersey and New York is back to limited service under the Hudson River after being shut ahead of the storm. Penn station in New York was closed for a while last night. But it is back open today. My goodness.

So, we've got team coverage of this untimely winter storm. Susan Candiotti is live from Asbury Park, New Jersey.

But, first, we're going to begin with Rob Marciano. He is in Staten Island, New York, where they are still reeling from last week's hurricane -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, are they ever, Zoraida. And they were worried about this storm for sure. One thing we didn't expect was this much snow, at least in New York City proper. Several inches falling in New York City and Central Park, breaking a record for the amount of snowfall there and here, along Staten Island, we're right near the beach, we're a couple hundred yards where the ocean came in during Hurricane Sandy. And at that time, it was up to about my shoulders.

This house behind me actually was shifted completely off its foundation. The people are not staying there. But there are a number of people in this neighborhood that are hunkering down and, you know, trying to stay warm and survive without heat or power.

All right. Let's talk about the storm in general. We had some impressive snow totals across Connecticut, upwards of a foot there. Also, I just saw one report of a foot in Manchester, New Jersey, a town also hit very hard by this storm. Susan Candiotti will have more on that.

Wind gusts also impressive, especially out in eastern Long Island, shoreline of Connecticut and Buzzards Bay, talking of wind gust over hurricane strength. Goodness.

All right. Here's where the storm is off the coast of Massachusetts. Still snowing in parts of Connecticut and Long Island. So, this thing is not done by any stretch.

But I'll tell you what? They were worried about the storm surge here because we're so close to the ocean and shoreline has been damaged. The protective berms have been damaged as well. We didn't get that, thankfully.

Yesterday, I caught up with a couple of families as a matter of fact that has been surviving really in their house since Sandy came through more than a week ago. Listen to what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICK CAMERADA, STATEN ISLAND RESIDENT: I went through the most pain I ever went through in my whole life from being electrocuted trying to get back into my house, to watching all my possessions and my family practically almost dying.

DIANE CAMERADA, STATEN ISLAND RESIDENT: This has been a week from hell. I mean, you know, I'm grateful that I have my family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: No power, no heat for them, obviously. And some people that got their power back on have now lost it. At least 600,000 outages because of the storm for Con Edison alone. Not sure what they are in Connecticut and New Jersey. But you can bet that that number is going to be much higher -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I can't believe that guy survived being electrocuted. That's just incredible. What you won't do for your family, right, Rob?

Thank you so much. Appreciate that.

MARCIANO: Exactly.

BERMAN: It is tough a lot of places in the tri-state area.

Now to New Jersey where Sandy made land fall nine days ago. Governor Chris Christie says the latest storm could actually send the recovery moving backwards. So, we're going to go ahead now to the Jersey Shore.

Susan Candiotti is joining us live now from Asbury Park, New Jersey, standing in snow a little while ago. There she is now. I can't believe the snow that accumulated.

And, Susan, Officials in the state are taking this very seriously, and they should. I understand there have been mandatory evacuations.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There have been mandatory evacuations along some low lying areas along the coast here. Not all, but some. And that was done protectively.

You can see why, because of not only the rain we got overnight but, of course, it quickly changed into snow late in the afternoon. You can see it measured, I would say, about two inches. Finally, it stopped overnight.

So, now, we only have occasionally the bitter wind. It is definitely cold out here. And now people have to deal with waking up to find out whether they have power.

In this area of Asbury Park, if we slowly give you a look over here, you can see the lights are still on. We never lost power at the hotel where we hunkered down last night. But it was filled with a lot of people who still do not have power at their house.

In all, John, roughly 390,000 customers in New Jersey remain without power. We know that at least 40,000 to 50,000 of them are due to this nor'easter.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, so much, Susan Candiotti.

Keep checking with us online here and on CNN online if you want to find out more about the storm, follow us on CNN weather on Twitter. We'll give you all the latest information on this storm.

SAMBOLIN: It is five minutes past the hour.

President Obama back at the White House, but it wasn't the welcome that his staff had intended. They wanted to greet him on the south lawn as his chopper landed. But the bad weather changed those plans. The first family took Air Force One then arrived at the White House and by motorcade instead.

BERMAN: The president's first order of business, avoiding the fiscal cliff. Congressional leaders from both parties conceding the election with a call to compromise. Now, what that comprise is? That hasn't been ironed out exactly. We're going to go live to Washington with more on what House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. That's coming up.

And the presidential race is over except in Florida. The state's 29 electoral votes are still unclaimed this morning. But they aren't make or break this time around. President Obama still holds a razor thin lead there.

BERMAN: Seven House races still up for grabs this morning across the country, including the heated contest on Florida's treasure coast between Tea Party Republican Allen West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy. Right now, Murphy does have a very slim lead of less than 2,500 votes. But West not conceding at all, actually, loudly not conceding.

And in Palm Springs, California, Republican Mary Bono Mack, who's a widow of late singer and Congressman Sonny Bono. She's actually married to Connie Mack, another congressman from Florida, she isn't giving up. She trails Democrat Raul Ruiz with all precincts reporting. But she says a large number of ballots had yet to be counted.

SAMBOLIN: So we're minding your business now. U.S. stock futures are flat this morning.

BERMAN: The markets had a rough day yesterday. Christine Romans here to explain this big selloff.

Is there an explanation?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: There's a very good explanation. When you look at the internals of the market, you can see some of the sectors reacting very specifically to a second Obama administration. When you look at the overall market, you see a very big selloff, and let me show you what it looked like, 313 points yesterday. The first Dow close below 13,000 in three months. Folks, that was the worst day of the year. More than 2 percent down.

When I talk about the internals of the market, I'm talking about banks, insurers, coal companies, energy companies. They all fell because, in fact, they think they're going to have higher costs. The markets think they're going to have higher costs in a second Obama administration.

You saw some Obamacare related stocks like hospitals up on the assumption that Obamacare is now secure.

So, the internals showed us how investors in different sectors, investors in different sectors were reacting to a second Obama presidency.

But there were also concerns over Europe and the fiscal cliff, and the fact that now you have this election out of the way, you still have the very big problems still facing us. Europe's debt crisis. Markets actually started to turn yesterday when Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president, made some comments about concerns about Germany.

So this wasn't just a U.S. story overall. You put these things altogether and it all ended up at 313 point decline for the Dow.

Also concerns about the debt ceiling. We're coming up again on the debt ceiling. Remember the debt ceiling is what got us into this fiscal cliff mess in the first place. There will be a fight over how to raise the debt ceiling or that could be wrapped up in however they fix the fiscal cliff perhaps.

But all of these things -- I want to remind you, the last time the president was elected, the next days, the stock market tumbled sharply, worse than this for two days in a row. But that time four years ago, the whole world was falling apart. Remember, we were in the midst of a financial crisis. This time 300 points, futures are flat this morning. At least at this hour doesn't look like it's a continuation of yesterday. It is more than the U.S., it is the rest of the world slowing down and were concerned about.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, they will be inside a Tucson courtroom to watch the man who shot Giffords receive his sentence. Jared Lee Loughner murdered six people during a shooting rampage back in January of 2011. Giffords and 12 others were wounded in that attack, at a Tucson shopping center.

Patricia Maitch saw Loughner opened fire. Maitch said she is still haunted by that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICIA MAITCH, WITNESS: Every time there's a loud, sudden noise, sometimes it's expected, sometimes unexpected, it's shocking and it takes me back to that morning and the sound of that gunshot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Loughner is expected to be sentenced to life inside a federal prison as part of a plea agreement that was reached last August.

SAMBOLIN: A congressional commission reports China may be two years away from developing submarine launch nuclear weapons. The U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission calls the Chinese the most threatening power in cyberspace and biggest challenge to the integrity of the U.S. supply chain.

The commission recommends engaging Beijing in arms reduction talks.

BERMAN: So, now that voters have spoken, will there be a new era of compromise on Capitol Hill or will it be more of the same as we approach the fiscal cliff? We're going to go live for Washington. There are signs of both possibilities, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: So now that the presidency has been decided, the question is: what do we do now? Will there be compromise or more confrontation in Congress over the looming fiscal cliff? It's a serious problem.

This morning, there are signs of both compromise and confrontation. But there may be some reason to be at least a tiny wee little bit optimistic.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is following all the developments from Washington.

Paul, what's going on this morning?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Good morning.

And you were just showing pictures of House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, and of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, he's the top Democrat in Congress. They both came before our cameras yesterday here in Washington, John. And, yes, they did talk about the election being a voice from the American voters for a call for compromise. And you heard both men talking about working together to fix the country's problems along with the president.

But at the same time, you also heard both men laying down markers. And both men disagreeing on whether when it comes to the fiscal cliff, the wealthy should be taxed, increasing the taxes.

Take a listen to what they said, John.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It won't solve the problem of our fiscal imbalance overnight. And certainly won't do it in a lame duck session of Congress. And it won't be solved simply by raising taxes or taking a plunge off the fiscal cliff.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The vast majority of the American people, rich, poor, everybody agrees that the rich, richest of the rich have to help a little bit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEINHAUSER: Another disagreement, John Boehner, the House Speaker, talking about doing a framework now but getting a real agreement done next year with the new Congress. Harry Reid saying, no, let's not kick the can further down the road.

John, negotiations really get under way next week when both parties, both members, both sides of the House and the Senate come back to town.

BERMAN: It will be a lot of phone calls before that.

Paul, you and I had a lot of fun the last few days talking about these final Senate races and House races where they were all falling. Where does the balance of power stand right now? STEINHAUSER: And things have changed since yesterday morning, John. Take a look at this. In the Senate, we finally called two more races yesterday afternoon.

And here's the breakdown in the Senate now. It's a little bit different than it was in the old Congress. Take a look at the charts here.

We now have 54 Democrats including one independent that caucuses with the party. As for the Republicans, 45 Republicans in the new Senate. We've also got one independent up in Maine, Angus King, the former governor up there. We do not know yet which party he will caucus with it.

If he does go with the Democrats as many people believe, it would be a two-seat pickup for the Democrats in the Senate from this past Congress.

As for the House, take a look at this. Here's where it stands right now. We have eight races still outstanding. So we don't know where they lay right now. But we have 233 Republicans in the new House. And we have 194 Democrats which is already a slight pickup for the Democrats when it's all said and done. It will be about a five or six seats pickup for the Democrats. But still, a solid majority in the House for the Republicans -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Paul Steinhauser, live in Washington, thanks so much.

And some of those House races, the votes separating the candidates is like 100, or 200 right now. So, it could be a while counting in those races.

SAMBOLIN: Kind of crazy close.

Sixteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to-date. Here's Christine Romans with your top stories.

ROMANS: Good morning you, two.

Just when the Northeast was rising from its knees, another crippling blow from Mother Nature. A powerful nor'easter packing damaging winds, driving snow and slamming right into the areas hardest hit last week by hurricane Sandy. Over 100,000 new power outages reported in the region. Governor Chris Christie says this latest storm could send his state's recovery moving backwards.

Take a look at some of this damage in Guatemala, a powerful earthquake has left 50 people dead. It's left roads, homes, and schools in ruins and knocked out power. Some 600 miles away, people in Mexico City could feel it.

A lawsuit filed in California is seeking more than $775 million in damages from South Korean automaker Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors. The suit, which is seeking class action status, follows last week's admission from the companies that they overstated the fuel efficiency ratings on more than a million vehicles recently sold in the U.S. and Canada.

Voters in Maricopa County, Arizona, have re-elected controversial sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who's known, of course, for his tough stance on undocumented immigrants. Both the ACLU and U.S. Justice Department have filed lawsuits against the 80-year-old Arpaio, accusing him of civil rights violations and racial discrimination against Latinos. And guys, he keeps getting re-elected again and again.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Christine.

And it is now 18 minutes after the hour. Time for your early read, a look at the local news that's making national headlines.

This one from "Chicago Sun Times", your hometown paper.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., they say, is holding plea deal talks wit the feds. Now, you got sources all over Chicago who sort of hinted this over a long time. This is over his alleged misuse of campaign funds. Chicago easily won re-election Tuesday night with 64 percent of the vote even though he's still reportedly undergoing treatment.

SAMBOLIN: Front page news.

BERMAN: Yes, it's a big deal. He is still undergoing treatment at Mayo Clinic for reportedly bipolar disorder.

A spokesman for the congressman is refusing to comment right now on this report.

SAMBOLIN: And there is a whole deal with Blagojevich also and that scandal, and that's still brewing.

All right. "The New York Daily News" has a story about an effort to make Puerto Rico the 51st state. Puerto Rican voters approved a nonbinding referendum to change the island status from U.S. territory to a state. In one ballot question, 61 percent said they wanted to achieve statehood. And then another question, 46 percent said they prefer to remain a commonwealth.

So since it's a bit of majority there, Congress actually gets to decide what happens next here. But it's interesting that the people, the younger people are speaking up for statehood now.

BERMAN: It is the younger people?

SAMBOLIN: It is a huge, huge number of young people would like to see it become a state.

BERMAN: All right. You want to find out more about this. For an expanded look for all of our top stories, head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart.

SAMBOLIN: And coming up, a closer look at the fiscal cliff and the talk in Congress about avoiding it. Is there a sign of common ground?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning.

The Dow dropped more than 300 points yesterday. That's a lot, partly because of reaction to the re-election of President Obama. But one of the driving factors is the big uncertainty of what's coming up with the fiscal cliff.

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans is here to explain what this is and what House Republicans are saying and, of course, what it could mean for your money.

And I was saying fast because we don't have a lot of time. We want to know it all.

ROMANS: I know. Let's fix it quickly, 90 seconds or less.

Look, we're starting to hear the players talk about confrontation less than conversation. And that is a change here. You got the same players but a new era here. I think the stage has been set for some real progress on this.

And maybe I'm being an optimist but what I'm hearing from the players from the first day the president gets elected is that Harry Reid said it's more fun to dance than fight. And that's pretty true.

This is what John Boehner on the Republican side said, very serious talk now about the fiscal cliff and tax reform. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: A stronger economy means more revenue which is what the president seeks. Because the American people expect us to find common ground, we're willing to accept some additional revenues via tax reform.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Did you hear that? Common ground and additional revenues via tax reform. Now, that could be raising tax rates, that could be finding more money.

In the same breath though he said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: But the American people also expect us to solve the problem. And for that reason, in order to garner Republican support for new revenues, the president must be willing to reduce spending and shore up entitlement programs that are the primary drivers of our debt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: John, you're the political wonk here. Does this -- is he putting down the marker? Is this like we're not going to budge, but we're going to budge?

BERMAN: He left the door open there. Everyone, all three sides yesterday between the president, Senate, and the House Speaker left a little bit of the door open there. They don't want to show too much leg. They don't want to alienate their base.

But there is reason for optimism and hope for compromise, at least today. Let's see.

ROMANS: I know, 54 days to fix the fiscal cliff. Just a reminder, huge tax increases and spending cuts. Nobody wants it to happen. It's just how they're going to fix it and who's going to give up more.

SAMBOLIN: I would say it finally sounds like they don't want it to happen either. That's how I felt -- sounded like compromise.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- additional revenues through tax reform isn't that I will allow tax increases, but --

SAMBOLIN: But we're going to be optimistic this morning, Berman.

BERMAN: Absolutely. You've been smiling all morning. So I'll let it sink in for a second.

Special delivery for the Colorado governor's office. Cheetos and gold fish, that's a reason to be happy. Maybe a little more than happy. The story behind these symbolic snacks coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Boy, this is insult to injury -- areas hardest hit by Sandy now have a nor'easter on their hands.

BERMAN: Facing the fiscal cliff, both sides talking about compromise in the wake of President Obama's re-election.

SAMBOLIN: Not so fast. The DEA with something to say about Colorado voting to legalize marijuana. You knew this was going to happen.

BERMAN: Yes, I bet they have something to say about that.

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is great to see you. It is 29 minutes after the hour right now.

The sequel to a horror movie -- that's how one Hurricane Sandy victim is describing the powerful nor'easter that is just battering the Northeast this morning. Thousands of people forced to endure damaging winds, bitter cold temperatures, and driving snow all in the dark. More than 600,000 customers are now without power, some for nine days, including me, but not that we need to know my problems. Many of these people, not me, forced to evacuate or hunkered down overnight in the face of 60-mile an hour winds, a two to four foot storm surge, and half a foot of snow. More than a thousand flights canceled in New York and Philadelphia. And the path train between New Jersey and New York is back to limited service under the Hudson River after being shut down ahead of the storm.

Penn Station in New York closed for a while last night, but, thankfully, it's back open today. We've got team coverage of this unwelcomed winter storm. Susan Candiotti standing in the snow in Asbury Park, New Jersey. But first, we're going to go to Staten Island where Rob Marciano is and where they are still reeling from last week's hurricane. Good morning, Rob.

MARCIANO: Good morning, John. You know, a couple of similarities oddly between this storm and Sandy as far as how we forecast it. Sandy we knew was going to be bad. We knew it was going to be huge. We knew the storm surge was going to be, you know, close to record, but it was still, it came in worse than what we expected.

This storm, we knew it was going to be bad. We thought we'd see wind in surge. As far as the snow is concerned, that came in worse than what we expected. And in some cases, we saw up to a foot of snow in Jersey and Connecticut. Here on Staten Island, as you mentioned, one of the places that during the height of Sandy, the water would have been up and over my shoulders where I stand right now.

Thankfully, they did not get the surge. Any sort of surge that was of consequence from this nor'easter because it just wasn't quite set up, but obviously, the snow has fallen. A couple of interesting things, this dumpster right here, that wasn't here before the storm. They brought it in because so many people on this street, the houses are still here.

But some like this one right here, it's not livable. That one is actually shoved off its foundation. And where the foundation is intact, a lot of -- at least the bottom floor of these homes have been completely scoured out by the storm. A handful of people are still hanging out in their houses because there -- honestly, there was a looting problem after the storm.

So, they're dealing with that as well. But this heavy wet snow has been weighing down trees and some of those trees, you know, lined up and down on top of cars and obviously taking down some power lines as well. So, we've got at least another 60,000 people without power because of this storm. And it's not done yet.

It's still snowing across Connecticut, eastern Long Island and Massachusetts. The winds in some spots have gusted over hurricane strength. Not what they needed less than ten days after Sandy coming through.

BERMAN: Not at all. Insult to injury. It's the only way to put it. Rob Marciano in Staten Island, thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: All right. We're going to go over to New Jersey now where dozens of communities along the shore will never, ever be the same after Sandy. Governor Chris Christie says this latest storm could actually send the recovery moving backwards. So, let's head to the Jersey shore.

Susan Candiotti is joining us live from very hard hit Asbury Park, New Jersey. Susan, how will the storm impact the gas shortage there? Can we talk a little bit about that or just kind of give me an overview at first of the situation there.

CANDIOTTI: Sure. Well, I mean, Governor Christie also put it best when he said yesterday I'm now waiting for the locust and the pestilence to arrive. I mean, how much more could hit this area, right? So, sure, overnight, they got socked with a lot of heavy, wet snow making the roads largely impassable in some areas until they can get it cleared out.

This is a wet snow, look, you know, you can make a good snowball with it. Pretty easy to do. Along the coast, two to four inches of snow, as much as six inches at Newark's Airport. Now in terms of gasoline, well, imagine, they have more power outages as a result of the nor'easter. So, again, it's two steps forward in the recovery, one or two steps back.

They're still assessing how bad that's going to be. So, for the gas stations and 30 percent of them were out before the nor'easter, we'll have to see what the numbers are as the sun comes up this morning to find out where things stand. But it could mean longer lines because the major problem is they can't get power to all the gas stations, you see.

And so, that's what's creating the long lines. The gas is there. In terms of here looking around, I mean, no one's up and about yet. So, it's pretty quiet right now, but when the sun comes up, we'll see how easy it is to get around. We know that we ran into utility crews here from as far away as Biloxi, Mississippi.

And they were telling us the work they were doing yesterday, those people that they have restored power to, they now, as of even last night, were already losing power again. So, it's a rough go for everyone here.

SAMBOLIN: No, it certainly is. It's nice to see all those power crews out there working. But man, under these circumstances, it's tough for them as well. Susan Candiotti reporting live for us. Thank you very much.

And remember, to upload your pictures and videos of the storm to our iReports website. That is Cnn.com/iReports.

BERMAN: All right.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (voice-over): So, get this, New York governor, Andrew Cuomo has fired his chief of emergency management following allegations that Steven Kerr (ph) used government workers to clear a tree from his driveway following Hurricane Sandy. A Cuomo administration source tells CNN Kerr arranged with the Suffolk County office of emergency management to remove the tree from his east north fork Long Island home.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Verizon Wireless is giving cell phone customers in New York and New Jersey a break on their bills as the area continues to recover from the effects of hurricane Sandy. The carrier says they will waive all charges for domestic calls and text messages between October 29th and November 16th for customers who live in places that were hit hard by the storm. That is very nice.

BERMAN: That's good news.

All right. President Obama reaching across the aisle to avoid the fiscal cliff. He called House Speaker John Boehner yesterday, Congressional leaders from both parties conceding that Tuesday's election was a call to compromise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: There's an alternative to going over the fiscal cliff by working together and creating a fairer, simpler, cleaner tax code. We can give our country a stronger, healthier economy. A stronger economy means more revenue, which is what the president seeks.

REID: This isn't something that I'm going to draw any lines in the sand. He's not going to draw any lines in the sand, I don't believe. And I think we need to work together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: The CEO of a Global Asset Management firm puts the odds at 30 to 40 percent that the U.S. will fall off the fiscal cliff. Let's hope he's wrong.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, don't break out the Cheetos or the gold fish, at least, not yet. That warning from Colorado governor, John Hicken-Looper after voters and his state passed a ballot measure legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. That setting up a possible legal battle with the justice department.

So, this statement from the DEA, quote, "The Drug Enforcement Administration's enforcement of the controlled substances act remains unchanged. The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives, and we have no additional comment at this time."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN (on-camera): The problem is federal law prohibits marijuana use and selling marijuana for recreational purposes. Now, Colorado State law allows it, so they're in conflict. But the feds haven't said exactly how they will enforce the situation. They're leading (INAUDIBLE), but it's clear they don't like where things are headed right now.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

BERMAN: All right. It will be a new term for -- no, we're talking about the marijuana office. So, what happened there, you knew this would happen. A special delivery of Cheetos and gold fish which was sent to the Colorado governor's office by local marijuana advocate.

The governor was out. His secretary accepted the shipment. Governor Hicken-Looper still has to sign off on this ballot measure before recreational pot use in Colorado is officially approved.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It will be a new term next year for President Obama, and perhaps, a new reality for the GOP. Will that mean compromise on Capitol Hill, folks? We're going to talk about that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Washington, D.C. It is 40 minutes past the hour. Right now, 42 degrees, a little later, 52 degrees. It's going to get some thunderstorms over there, is that what I read? Oh, clouds and then sun in the afternoon. I am so glad to be sharing that. Sun in the afternoon. So, we're going to talk politics, you know?

With the political status quo secured, there's only one direction for America's lawmakers to go and that is forward, hopefully, avoiding the looming fiscal cliff that is instantly dominated the talk in Washington since the president's re-election. I know it's dominated your conversations as well at home.

The White House released a statement saying the president has already reached out to leaders in the House and Senate, and both Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, seem to be signaling a willingness to compromise in the wake of Tuesday night's results.

Former senior adviser to President Clinton and NewYorker.com writer, Richard Socarides is here with me in New York this morning to discuss, and Republican strategist and contributor with the "Chicago Defender," Lenny McAllister is joining us from Washington. I haven't seen you in a while, Lenny. Good morning to you.

LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Good to see you, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, Lenny, we haven't spoken to you in a while. So, I haven't really gotten your thoughts on the election, the president's re-election. So, what are your thoughts on that?

MCALLISTER: I'm not surprised by this result. I thought that it would be a close election with the popular vote, but you would see this spread with the Electoral College. So, to see how it played out on Tuesday night is not a surprise. To move forward from here, the Republicans really need to examine how they message to the changing demographics in America.

This is just yet another example of that. They basically use the playbook from 2008 and hoped that it would work in 2012. And, you know what they said. Einstein said it best that insanity is doing the same exact thing over and over again and expecting different results. The Republicans did that for two straight presidential elections.

SAMBOLIN: You know what, Lenny? You and I have spoken about this a lot and that is how do you change the demographics? And, Newt Gingrich talked with Soledad about it yesterday. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FMR 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Outreach is when five White guys have a meeting and call you. You know, inclusion is when you're in the meeting which inherently changes the whole tenure of the meeting. This will be a big challenge for the House Republicans. They're a very comfortable majority.

The Democratic presidents are like to stay (ph) in majority for long time. The question is, do they want to, in a disciplined way, create a schedule and a program and include people who are not traditionally Republicans in order to grow a party in 2016 that's competitive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And Richard, I'm going to bring into the conversation here soon, but Lenny, I want to focus with you on this because we have spoken about this a lot. The Republican Party and how they can get some more Latino support. I want to show you the CNN exit polls. Latino support for Obama, 71 percent, for Romney, 26 percent.

Look at the African-American support for Obama, 93 percent, Romney, six percent. How do you change that? You are an African-American male. How do you change that?

MCALLISTER: You have to engage the communities. You cannot be afraid of the communities. You have to go to the south side of Chicago, the west side of Chicago, go to Detroit, go to Harlem, talk about values, talk about conservative principles in a way that does two things, one, you're effective and, two, you're not insulting.

And the Republicans have not been effective, and they haven't been table to articulate the conservative Republican message without being insulting. I think that moving forward, you'll see some leaders be able to do that extremely well. And you'll continue to see others that slip when it comes to this.

SAMBOLIN: Richard, do you want to chime in on that?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Well, you know, I would just say that what Lenny said and also to what former Congressman Gingrich said that it's more about meetings and it's about more than meetings and about more than engagement.

I mean, the Republican Party is going to have to change some of its policies to address these fundamental issues in this country and the changing, you know, the changing demographics in this country and what people are interested in seeing solutions to. I mean, if you don't solve the immigration problem, you could have meetings.

You can have engagement. But if you have no solutions on immigration, people who are concerned about those issues are not going to support you.

SAMBOLIN: Well, it's not just immigration, right, Lenny? It's a way of connecting, really, with those communities.

MCALLISTER: It is absolutely about connecting with those communities and being able to show that you're willing to have more inclusion when it comes to actual leadership. Again, you look at 2010, the message resonated from the East Coast to the West Coast. You saw Allen West. You saw Tim Scott.

So, you saw people coming into the Republican poll and getting elected with a conservative message. But it's about how you message, how you engage, and how you open the door to leadership and advancing through the 21st century as true leaders in this century, not just cheerleaders for party or for an archaic model of how to do politics.

SOCARIDES: Lenny, and what I would say is that it's about a lot more than engagement. I mean, it's not about just getting candidates who look different to run under your banner. It's about changing the way you think about this country. It's about changing the policies that you're trying to put in place.

And no level of engagement, no -- you know, you can't just change the atmospherics and change the way this party thinks. I mean, the Republican Party has got big challenges ahead. And the challenges, I mean, are they going to stick with this view of the world that is like all White and all male and all kind of you know, back 20, 30, 40 years ago? Are they going to move forward and realize that this country is changing as it always has? I mean, the country has always developed and changed.

SAMBOLIN: Gentleman, I want to talk fiscal cliff before I run out of time here. Avoiding the fiscal cliff is a top issue for the rest of 2012. The president made some calls to Congressional leaders, we understand. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid spoke yesterday about working with House Speaker, John Boehner. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: This isn't something that I'm going to draw the lines in the sand. He's not going to draw any lines in the sand, I don't believe. And I think we need to work together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think a deal is possible?

REID: Of course. It's so simple. We know what the issue is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Really? It's so simple. It's been so complicated for so long. How does it become so simple, all of a sudden? Richard, I'm going to start with you. SOCARIDES: Well, you know, I think elections do clarify things for a lot of people. And I think that we just had an election and I think members of Congress are going to work together to solve this issue. I think this issue will be solved relatively quickly.

SAMBOLIN: Relatively quickly?

SOCARIDES: I mean, you know, certainly before our fiscal cliff expires. I have no doubt that we're not, you know, we're not going to go over the edge, because I think it's in everybody's interest to solve this. But the real question is, though, does this election bring any clarity over the more difficult issues, the issues that have plagued us over the last four years.

SAMBOLIN: Do you think, Lenny, that Republicans say, hey, this sent a really strong message? We have to work together?

MCALLISTER: I think, finally, everybody will start working together, because over the last three terms, we've seen everybody be humiliated and be humbled a little bit. In 2008, it was the Republicans. In 2010, it was the Democrats. In 2012, it's been the Tea Party element. So, everybody has finally been humbled to a point where they have to come to the table and start working for Americans, not just for their own political interest. I think we'll finally see some movement.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. I'm going to wish happy birthday to Richard Socarides, writer to NewYorker.com.

SOCARIDES: Thank you.

MCALLISTER: Happy birthday, Richard.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And Lenny McAllister, Republican strategist. Thank you both for being with us this morning.

SOCARIDES: Thank you, Zoraida.

BERMAN: All right. Forty-eight minutes after the hour right now. So, we all remember the last time he was on Twitter. Coming up, why disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner is tweeting again. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Fifty-two minutes after the hour. Here are your morning's top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): The man behind the anti-Muslim movie that caused so much rage overseas has been sentenced to a year in federal prison. Mark Yousof admitted he used an alias without permission. He allegedly used a different name when he made that film. That violated the terms of his probation in a bank fraud case from two years ago.

You're seeing angry reaction to a new round of austerity measures in Greece. The cuts are required for Greece to keep getting bailout funds, but they also mean slashing people's paychecks and cutting their pensions. About 70,000 people protested outside parliament before lawmakers approved the cuts.

With certitude, Anthony Weiner is back on Twitter. The former Democratic congressman posted his first tweet yesterday since resigning nearly 18 months ago after sending a sext over the social networking site. This tweet included a link to a YouTube video raising awareness to victims of Sandy and the Rockaways, you know, the Rockaways. Part of those Rockaways fall in his old district.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: I think it's a safe tweet. That's a safe first tweet to send out again and appropriate.

ROMANS (on-camera): I think so, too. I think so, too.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

It is 53 minutes past the hour. Coming up, powerless, cold, the northeast is socked again. More on the surprise nor'easter striking an already weekend north east this morning. Hundreds of thousands of people are still recovering from superstorm Sandy's wrath, forced to pick up the pieces without power and in the bitter cold, folks. We are live outside in New York. We're also in New Jersey.

BERMAN: And it's so 2012. There are over 100,000 in Denver alone. Now, the election is over, what happens to all the political signs on all the lawns out there? We're going to find out coming up.

SAMBOLIN: But first, Jermaine Jackson shedding his famous name. Why he's buying a new vowel coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Fifty-seven minutes after the hour. John Berman along with Zoraida Sambolin. We're taking a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning.

First up, I love this one. Chuck strong. The Indianapolis Colts are shaving their heads before tonight's game against the Jaguars. It's a show of support for their coach, ChuckPagano, who left the team to undergo treatment for leukemia. (INAUDIBLE) He made an inspirational speech before the Colts last game.

Really, this one will choke you up if you look at it on the web. We'll post it on the website. The Colts and rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, are one of the feel good stories of the season. They're looking to improve to 6-3 tonight.

SAMBOLIN: Great show of support there.

BERMAN: It is.

SAMBOLIN: All right. The Jackson Four plus one. TMZ reports that Jermaine Jackson petitioned to change his famous last name from Jackson to Jacksun. Jack S-U-N. He filed a name change petition on Tuesday in Los Angeles stating the switch was for artistic reasons.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: I have no idea. I wish I could explain this to you, but I can't. The request has not yet been approved by the judge. Let's reach out to Jermaine --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: And you should make Sambolin Sambolun.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: In support of Jermaine as of now.

All right. As you would expect, the late night comedians had some fun last night with the results of Tuesday's presidential election. We've got to watch it pretty quickly --

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": You just relieved it's finally over, aren't you? After 18 months, the election is over.

(CHEERING)

O'BRIEN: Now, now we can get back to what's really important, what the hell is going on with Bruce Jenner's face?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: That's what we need to be talking about in this nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he just is constantly being terrified by something.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": You know, Donald Trump was going to give President Obama $5 million to turn over his college records. Well, guess what? Today, President Obama turned over his college records to Donald Trump. It's the Electoral College record.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Congratulations to President Obama on being re-elected President of the United States. Congratulations.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

LENO: It turns out it is not all bad news for the Republicans. I guess, seems depression is covered by Obamacare.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. EARLY START continues right now.