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THE SITUATION ROOM

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath; New Presidential Polls Released

Aired November 1, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Grim new numbers in the wake of superstorm Sandy. The death toll has now risen to 157. That includes 88 people in the United States, 67 in the Caribbean and two in Canada. And those numbers could continue to climb as recovery efforts continue. Half of the U.S. deaths were in New York state, at least 19 of them on Staten Island, where multiple neighborhoods have been laid to waste.

People who live there are desperate right now for help. They still have no power, no water and nowhere to go and help from the outside has just started to arrive three days after the storm.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us.

Brian, you're talking to residents. What are they telling you?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is New Dorp Beach on Staten Island and the residents here telling us they are pretty much just in shock picking up off the floor and picking up the pieces of their lives and their homes that have been damaged here. Hundreds of homes in Staten Island and many of them in this neighborhood have either been damaged or completely destroyed. People here are just devastated.

This is a look down Cedar Grove Avenue. You can see some cars down there. But this is basically floodwater and people have been trying to kind of wade through there to get to their homes to assess damage. There's a flooded-out church over here to my right and if you come over here, you can see just the damage in this yard over here. That container back there looked like, you know, some kind of a container truck, container, some kind of moving container.

That was over in that church parking lot. That hit this house and another container of this same size hit this house and went down the street. That tells you the force of the storm. Right now, we have gotten word that these two young boys who were missing since the storm hit, they have been swept away from their mother, two young boys, the bodies have been found. They are deceased. They were found not too far away from here in a marsh.

The death toll now on Staten Island alone is 19. Those numbers could, of course, change. But the news of those two young boys, of course, devastating, again, to this community. I will show you some scenes from the community now as we walked around here a short time ago and some of the words of the people who were just shattered by this whole thing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some stuff came up into the gate with the water, came up and knocked things down, took things down. I have a couple of cats. They're surviving. They're little kittens.

The water level was up to here. This was the water level. So it touched my first floor. But this was -- you know, and this is old stuff coming out of the refrigerator. There's no power.

TODD: Do you think you can rebuild?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not without any funds, no. Without funds, I will probably have to walk away from my home. I will probably have to walk away from my home.

TODD: This is Cedar Grove Avenue on Staten Island, completely devastated. Look at this house here, just collapsed. Roof completely broke down. There's remnants of a stairwell there that may have gone to an attic. That looks like an attic that you're seeing just slanting down over here.

The rest of it is leveled, remnants over here. This is kind of the scene repeated throughout Staten Island. People kind of bringing whatever items they can salvage and just stringing them all over their front lawns just to see if they can just leave them intact for someone to come and pick them up.

The owner told us we could come in and take a look at the damage in his house. You can kind of get an idea of what the storm surge did when it came through here. The shoreline is that way. The owner says the surge came through here.

This is his living room, what's left of it. Came right through here. Look at all the debris. Look at everything that was destroyed. This is the living room area. That whole section looks like a kitchen, looks like it was washed out there, debris all over the place. This is a sofa he says almost got tossed out the window. The owner told us that a lot of debris just came rushing through the house and right out the window here.

At this house, they're just trying to get as much stuff out of the house as possible. The homeowner's right over here. She says she doesn't think she can salvage any of this stuff. Again, a scene repeated throughout Staten Island. She says this is her 8-year-old son. They were in here and they rode out the storm together. She says this is the first time he's been out of the house since the storm hit. He's just been so terrified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People just got out in time. We got to move our cars. We lost three cars. We have nothing. I don't know how you bounce back from something like this.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: And one prominent complaint in this neighborhood and elsewhere on Staten Island from the borough president and from residents here is that the cavalry really was a little late in getting here.

The borough president specifically saying some private agencies, well-known private relief agencies plus government agencies, relief agencies just didn't get here for the first couple of days after the storm. We are told now that the FEMA has a presence here and the Red Cross has a presence here and some state agencies are also on the ground here on Staten Island, Wolf.

But the complaint from this neighborhood and from the borough president is that they didn't get here until just a few hours ago.

BLITZER: Did they offer an explanation on why it has taken three days to get there?

TODD: We have not been able to get a real formal explanation. Part of the reason for that is because communication where we are, it's pretty much cut out. You can't really call out very well. We haven't been able to get ahold of some officials who might be able to give us an answer to that.

But, Wolf, I can tell you that just traveling around this section of Staten Island and getting to this remote part of the island, at least the part that has been cut off by the storm, very, very difficult. So, that could be a key reason why those relief agencies were not able to make it here maybe as fast as they wanted to. You know, you don't want to start to throw around a lot of criticism when you don't really know the logistics on the ground.

I can tell you traveling around on Staten Island today, exceedingly difficult.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on Staten Island for us, thank you.

We also have dramatic pictures of the dire situation in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Sandy sent river water pouring into the city of 50,000 people. National Guard troops had to be called in to get trapped residents to dry ground.

Hoboken is also without power and it could be more than a week before the lights are back on in Hoboken.

Even people who didn't lose anything on this storm are having a tough time right now.

Kate Bolduan is here. She's picking up this part of the story. It's awful.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I was just thinking, those pictures out of Hoboken and Staten Island, they continue -- they're just so startling. I think they obviously continue to be for days and weeks ahead. But as Wolf said, something as simple as filling up a car involves waiting in long, meandering lines miles long, hours long wait for some. Reuters reports at least half of the gas stations in New York City and neighboring New Jersey are closed because they're simply out of gas or don't have power themselves.

Almost five million homes and businesses still have no electricity. Con Edison says power to Midtown and Lower Manhattan should be restored by Saturday, with a vast majority of customers back online by November 11. That's 10 days away.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is working that part of the story for us this evening.

Deborah, that is not something that any resident without power wants to hear right now. What is the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, absolutely not. In all the hard-hit areas, this is the time of night that everybody begins to dread. The temperatures are dropping. That means it's simply getting colder and the natural light that they're able to use to kind of get around and navigate, well, that's disappearing.

So, those who are in their apartments who are effectively sort of stuck there because they can't go anywhere or they don't have anywhere else to go, right now they're hunkering down for the evening. Here's what we found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): In a scene that repeated itself in the hardest-hit areas, grocery stores like Western Beef in Lower Manhattan had to throw out massive quantities of spoiling food.

HECTOR PARRA, WESTERN BEEF: You got the veal. You got the (INAUDIBLE) you got the pork.

FEYERICK (on camera): And everything had to be thrown away?

PARRA: Yes. All the chicken, you don't want to take a chance on this to try and make money and make somebody sick.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Alex Rojas (ph) and Hector Parra say they had to throw out upwards of 20,000 pounds of milk, meat, fish and other perishables like ice cream.

(on camera): We see a lot of empty shelves here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Company-wise, we have lost millions by far already, not just this store, but a few stores have been affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Some restaurants had to call in private garbage truckers to get rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars of food which spoiled because of the power outages. (on camera): This is one of the many buildings in Lower Manhattan that has been in complete darkness since the hurricane hit. We are going to show you. Again, this is an apartment building, so lots of families, lots of homes.

FEYERICK (voice-over): We meet Anita Vazquez.

(on camera): How has been it walking up and down those four floors over the last couple of days?

ANITA VAZQUEZ, STORM VICTIM: Not easy.

FEYERICK: Do you have enough food?

VAZQUEZ: The food went bad and we threw it out yesterday.

FEYERICK (voice-over): She invites us to take a look.

VAZQUEZ: We puts the light on the floor. We leave them on until about 12:00 so that we don't have to fall and we also knock on each other's neighbors to see if everybody is OK.

FEYERICK (on camera): Let's see your refrigerator. You have no electricity here in your refrigerator. Let's see, what do you have in there?

VAZQUEZ: OK. We threw some of the food away yesterday.

FEYERICK: OK.

VAZQUEZ: We have what can not be damaged. We have a few grapes and we threw everything else out because the fridge was smelling already.

FEYERICK: OK. Yes, you can smell it a little bit. Everything began to spoil.

PARRA: Yes. And then here so far they said, if you don't open your freezer for 72 hours, everything will last. So, it's bad because we have to cook everything we can.

So, you're trying to get rid of it. So, I see. So, you still have a little bit of meat. When are you going to start cooking that meat?

VAZQUEZ: Tonight. We are going to get rid of it. We threw some of it -- it was smelly. But it's still cold. But you see you can smell?

FEYERICK: Yes. Yes. Yes. You can definitely smell it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: And, so, Kate, you know, what we found, this is a scene that is repeating itself in millions of homes that have been hit so hard. They're eating what they can. This particular family, the Vazquezes, they're eating peanut butter sandwiches, whatever crackers they have got. They used -- they took some of the -- they were able to buy some milk and they actually put it on the windowsill in order to keep it cold. Again, sort of a blessing and a curse, they're keeping it cold because the temperatures outside are getting colder, but that means they have to wear more clothing inside.

And without power, there's just so little they can do. So, they're sort of huddling together to keep warm, do what they can. Not just Manhattan, not just Lower Manhattan, but all the hard-hit areas in the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island, wherever people lost power, they are doing the best they can. But there is a fear. There is a fear that they're simply not going to have enough food, that they're going to run out of food. So, as Brian said, they need the cavalry to come.

BOLDUAN: They just need the lights to turn back on. Deborah Feyerick in New York for us, thanks so much, Deborah.

BLITZER: Let's hope the cavalry arrives.

Parts of the Jersey Shore destroyed by floodwater, we're going there live, that's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have seen the damage in New York and now we're going to the Jersey Shore where there's mile after mile of devastation.

BOLDUAN: Many of the boardwalks and piers where families were enjoying their summer just weeks ago have been laid to absolute waste.

CNN's Michael Holmes is there for us. Michael, what are you seeing tonight?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, yesterday, of course, we got to see the damage done to the houses along there from the beach all the way up to Normandy, entire houses picked up and dumped in the middle of the street in some cases.

Well, today, we went to see some of that iconic New Jersey boardwalk and the amusement parks that are so well known to Americans particularly in the Northeast, Casino Pier in particular. And the devastation there was something to behold. I have never seen so much wood piled up along the shoreline there, that 300 meters worth of the pier that was sticking out in the Atlantic Ocean, most of it gone. The roller coaster there, the Star Jet, dumped into the sea as the pier fell and bizarrely sitting almost intact in the ocean.

Three dozen rides and other attractions there of course were all gone and a little bit further up at the Fun Town Pier less than a mile further north, it was extraordinary to see the damage done there as well. Huge swathes of the front of this iconic structure just gone. Knocked into the ocean. Rides twisted and another bizarre sight, a big ferris wheel there that was sitting on a pier, the pier went, the ferris wheel dropped. It's still sitting upright quite bizarrely.

For how long, we don't know. For those who don't know, this is sort of a destination for millions of Americans, for generations going there and visiting. If you have ever seen "The Sopranos" or heaven forbid "The Jersey Shore" or listen to the Springsteen song, the Jersey boardwalk, well, 16 blocks of that boardwalk buckled or splintered and undermined.

We were told when we were out there today all of it likely to have to be replaced. You can't imagine the cost.

BOLDUAN: When you see that roller coaster or ferris wheel, it just looks like scraps, it is really startling, really kind of obviously, just a tourist attraction, but it really hits home.

Michael Holmes in New Jersey for us, thanks so much. Thanks so much, Michael.

Still ahead, the storm put the presidential campaign largely on hold. Now the candidates are back in a final grueling sprint to Election Day with five days to go. We're on the campaign trail with them next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We're now just five days from the presidential election and after being muted by the superstorm disaster, the campaign is now back in full swing.

President Obama is hitting Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado just today.

CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin , is in Las Vegas for us.

Jess, it didn't take them very long to get back on message. But I guess it's no surprise. It is five days out.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, he is right back on message, Kate, with a new closing message, the president back on the trail and wearing his leadership credentials on his sleeve, literally.

On his first stop of the day in Wisconsin, he bounded off the plane wearing a bomber jacket emblazoned with the words commander in chief, in case you didn't get it. And he woke up today and got some good news in the morning with two big endorsements from the magazine "The Economist" and also from New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg had told him it would be best if he did not come visit storm damage in that city yesterday, but today threw his support behind the president both for his positions on climate change and gay marriage, among other issues.

So, it looks like he's got increasing support in Acela corridor today. And, Kate, here in Vegas, the president began with a new closing message. Gone were those words of attacking Governor Romney for so-called Romnesia. Instead, he's hitting his opponent with this line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's saying he's the candidate of change. Now, let me tell you, Nevada, we know what change looks like. And what the governor's offering sure ain't change. Giving more power back to the biggest banks isn't change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn't change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: Now, Kate, all the stops that he's making today, all battleground states, both battleground states. Wisconsin should have been a blue state, typically is. But with Paul Ryan on the ticket, it's leaning, it's more in play. President will visit it twice again before Election Day -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Many more battleground states to hit in the final days of the election. Jessica Yellin, thanks so much, Jess.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney is also on a final sprint through the swing states, but minus the positive tone he was trying to strike in Sandy's immediate aftermath.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the road with the Romney campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, following the Romney campaign bus across the state of Virginia, we can report the truce is over. After initially dialing back his criticism of the president in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, the GOP nominee is back on offense.

(voice-over): Mitt Romney turned battleground Virginia into a battlefield ending a two-daybreak from the campaign's fireworks with some new verbal cannon shots aimed at winning the last five days of the race.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that the Obama folks are chanting four more years, four more years, but our chant is this, five more days. Five more days is our chant.

ACOSTA: Romney then mocked President Obama for saying he may create a new secretary of business in his second term to consolidate the number of federal agencies offering loans and support to American companies.

NARRATOR: Barack Obama says he may appoint a secretary of business --

ACOSTA: In a new ad and on the stump, Romney said the proposal equals more government.

ROMNEY: We don't need the secretary of business to understand business. We need a president who understands business, and I do.

ACOSTA: Romney will carry that message on a final swing state sprint to the finish that moves next to Wisconsin and Ohio before hitting four more battlegrounds, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada, all on Saturday.

In Florida, the Romney campaign quietly launched a new Spanish- language TV ad that links Mr. Obama to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and the daughter of Cuba's Raul Castro.

The ad appeared to be aimed at driving up pro-Romney Cuban- American voters to offset other Latinos who largely support the president.

With polls showing President Obama receiving high marks for his handling of superstorm Sandy, it's unclear how much the race has changed. Hoping to recapture the momentum he had before the storm, Romney recycled a line of attack he used pre-Sandy.

ROMNEY: He's been out talking about how he's going to save Big Bird and then playing silly word games with my last name, or first and then attacking me day in and day out.

(on camera): In one more sign the Romney campaign is trying to expand the battleground map, aides to the GOP nominee say he will stop in Pennsylvania on Sunday. Democratic officials are calling that an act of desperation, but a Romney campaign official says it's the Obama campaign that is "freaking out" -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jim Acosta reporting to us from the bus on the campaign trail.

BOLDUAN: Residents on Staten Island have some heart-wrenching story about the unbelievable destruction in their neighborhoods. We will have more on that next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE MCCOMB, RESIDENT OF NEW YORK: Total, total devastation. Never in my life.

I live a mile from the beach. How did that water get to my house? To me, I think it was a tsunami.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here on the East Coast, you can see Sandy's impact on the evening commute.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. The New York City metro city is still in a transportation emergency with limited public transit, meaning long lines and gridlock. And for the people who tried to drive in, many spent hours in line for gas. Some stations are without power, causing panic among people trying to keep generators going and top off their gas tanks.

Each day, we get a new look at how severe the damage is from this storm. Check this out. This house in New Jersey is now its own island with neighboring homes simply washed away.

BLITZER: It's awful, indeed.

Michelle McComb is among the Staten Island residents who lost everything. She talked to us earlier. She described how the water swallowed up her home and a full mile from the beach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCOMB: Everything was fine on Monday, Wolf. We were calm.

And then my son looked out the window and he said, mom, dad, do you see all this water? My 11-year-old. And we looked, and I looked out the door and, Wolf, it was like I was at the beach. The water was coming down like a tidal wave. I could not believe it.

And my husband was, "Oh, my God, we've got to get out." We have three dogs. So we all grabbed a dog. My son left in his pajamas. We got to our car, which is just down in our driveway. The water was up to the tires.

So, we ran to a neighbor, and then we went to my mother's, who had power. And we came back the next morning, and my hall basement, the water went up to the ceiling. My refrigerator was floating. How a refrigerator floats is beyond me.

But coming back, the devastation in my neighborhood was unbelievable. There were people's furnaces on other people's lawns. We saw an ice chest from like stores that they keep ice, on people's lawns. Trees down. Out with power. Just total devastation. Never in my life.

I live a mile from the beach. How did that water get to my house? To me, I think it was a tsunami.

BLITZER: Can your house, Michelle, be salvaged now? What do you need to be able to move back in there?

MCCOMB: Well, we're definitely not ready to move in. It's -- it was full of water, and it was the ocean water, salt water. So, salt water has destroyed all our electrical. We have to have all that redone. My house has no power. We can't even turn the power, if were to get power back, we can't even turn it on, because it's contaminated.

We, right now, have some missionaries from my church are here. I have about 40 people helping us just clear out stuff. My son slept down there. That was his room. He lost everything. I just found his baby book, and I started hysterical crying. But we lost everything, Wolf.

And, they're helping us take down the dry wall, the -- you know, all the insulation because it's all contaminated. We had a koi pond in my backyard, all the fish are dead. It went up to have a four-foot above-ground pool. The water went up to 3 1/2 feet. We have the water lines on the pool.

BLITZER: Has anybody from FEMA or any of the authorities been around there? National Guard?

MCCOMB: No National Guard. We are above the boulevard. Below the boulevard, Wolf, people have lost their home. There is nothing left. They have found bodies down the block. So, I know the devastation there is a lot worse. We're lucky we got out alive.

My car, we couldn't get my second car out. That's totally gone. You could look in and you could see water in the cup holders.

We got in touch with FEMA. The guy was going to come last night. He could not get onto Staten Island. Traffic is horrific. Besides the downed lights, we have trees everywhere and floods. FEMA is supposed to come tomorrow. We called all the insurance people, you know, as much as we can do on our end.

BLITZER: Our reporter Brian Todd tell us that the American Red Cross is on the scene. Have you seen them on Staten Island?

MCCOMB: I have -- no, I have not seen the Red Cross. But, like I said, I'm not in -- we got flooded out, but there are people who have lost their homes and there's nothing left.

BLITZER: There are people who have lost -- there are people who have lost their lives, including two boys whose bodies were found today.

MCCOMB: Exactly. Exactly.

BLITZER: You're familiar with what, not only the devastation, but the death, especially on Staten Island. Were you at all prepared for what happened there? Did anyone give you an indication this was about to unfold?

MCCOMB: Not at all, Wolf. Not at -- not at all. We are not even in an evacuation zone. We are zone "B," and we were not told of anything. We just -- in fact, it was so calm, Wolf. I said to my husband, "I think I'm going to go to bed." It was so calm, just a little wind.

All of a sudden, if my 11-year-old didn't look out the window, we would not have known until the water started to come up. But he said, "Mommy, look at the water."

BLITZER: Yes. Your congressman, Michael Grimm, has described Staten Island right now, in his words, as a mini Katrina. Is that your sense, as well?

MCCOMB: Katrina, yes.

BLITZER: A mini Katrina.

MCCOMB: I know how -- I know how those people in Katrina feel. I really do. My heart went out to them. But until you go through something like this, you cannot understand the magnitude of this.

My friends have come to help me. They said, "Michelle, we looked at your yard," because we have all the stuff in the yard. They said, "Michelle, if we didn't see this with our own eyes, we would never believe it."

BLITZER: It's hard to know when power will be restored. Mayor Bloomberg said the ferry service will resume in the next day or so. He says full service by Saturday. The ferry from Staten Island over to Manhattan and New York. But, who knows what's going to happen.

Our heart -- our heart goes out to you, Michelle, and your family.

MCCOMB: Thank you so much. I'm a big fan of yours, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MCCOMB: And it's a pleasure to speak with you. And you know, I have to put it in perspective. We have our lives and I have my children and I mean, it's just stuff like my kids say. But you know, when I found my son's baby book, it rips at your heart strings. But I'm grateful that we're here.

BLITZER: Yes, and I like your attitude. You've got to take a look at the positive side, even though you've lost a lot of physical possessions.

MCCOMB: Exactly.

BLITZER: You have your family; you have your health.

MCCOMB: That's right.

BLITZER: And you and everyone else, you will come back out of this misery.

MCCOMB: We will, Wolf. I'm a breast cancer survivor two years. And I know God will help me and help us get through this. And God bless you and all the people that are suffering right now. My heart and prayers go to everyone.

BLITZER: Michelle, thank you. Michelle McComb is a resident on Staten Island.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Really powerful story.

BOLDUAN: Remarkable lady. BLITZER: Wonderful woman.

BOLDUAN: Even when the power comes back, they have so much work to do in places in Staten Island and everywhere. Such a heartbreaking story. She's pretty impressive, though.

Many questions still. Should New York City have been better prepared for Sandy? We'll talk to the -- we'll talk about the disaster plus the superstorm politics now in play with the former New York governor, George Pataki, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: He saw New York through the unparalleled disaster of 9/11.

BOLDUAN: And now he's watching along with all of us as the city and state struggle through this superstorm disaster.

BLITZER: The former governor of New York, George Pataki, is joining us from New York. Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

Let's talk a little bit about what's going on in your state right now, specifically New York City. Should the city, based on everything you know right now and it's still relatively early, should the city have been better prepared for this storm?

GEORGE PATAKI, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: You know, I think, Wolf, it's too soon to say that at this point. The people had adequate warning that there was going to be a major storm. There were evacuation orders in place. But I don't think anyone was prepared for the magnitude of the storm surge. The flood you just heard about from Mrs. McComb on Staten Island.

But the people were notified. Obviously, you have to deal with the public safety issues now and trying to get the power back on and trying to get the transit system running. And then after that, after the dust has settled, so to speak, you can look back and say, what do we have to do better the next time? You always learn, you always try to do better, but I think at this point, let's still focus on the recovery.

BLITZER: When you were governor, did you ever think the subways would be flooded like this? That the lights over Lower Manhattan would simply switch off for days?

PATAKI: Well, obviously, we had durable storms. We had the power blackout across the East Coast, and, of course, we had September 11. So -- so, certainly, you could anticipate the loss of power.

And one of the things that's troubling to me is that it is taking quite some time to come back. I understand it's extraordinary times. I understand that seawater does a lot more damage than rainwater, and it's understandable that it's taking this time. But, hopefully, the city will come back quickly and stronger. And I just want to say one thing about your clip there with Mrs. McComb. That was truly heartbreaking, but also inspiring. And I think it really struck the two feelings that we have here today. There's a sorrow in the sense of loss for people who have lost everything and for those who have lost their lives.

But you saw it in Mrs. McComb, the resiliency, the commitment that "I'm OK. Others have it worst off and we'll get through that." And I think that's an important lesson here. It's just not government.

She mentioned how 30 volunteers from her church were helping out, because FEMA hadn't been able to get there. As we go forward here, let's look out for each other. It doesn't have to just be the government. If you can help a neighbor, that's how we've gotten through these in the past, and that's how we'll come back through this better than ever.

BOLDUAN: And Governor, Mrs. McComb definitely had very good perspective. Our reporter on the ground in Staten Island is saying that people in Staten Island feel like they've been abandoned, that they're desperate, that they haven't seen kind of the cavalry come in to help them. Do you think that the response has been uneven in terms of Staten Island, compared to the other boroughs?

PATAKI: You know, I really can't say that. I know that there's tremendous devastation in Staten Island, that there is in Queens and Breezy Point, of course, where over 100 homes were lost completely. And it's very difficult, because you want to respond everywhere as quickly as possible, but the resources are limited.

So I can understand people's frustration. It is Thursday. That frustration will grow, which is why it's important that we focus on getting lives back to normal or as much to normal as possible as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: We really appreciate your perspective, Governor Pataki. Thank so much for joining us.

PATAKI: Thank you, Wolf. Nice being on with you.

BLITZER: We also have other news we're following, including some revealing new poll numbers one of from the battleground states, talking about Colorado. We'll take a closer look at what they could mean for the race for the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: There are new numbers coming in from the critical battleground state of Colorado. Our latest CNN/ORC poll is revealing a very tight race, with President Obama at 50 percent and Mitt Romney with 48 percent of support of likely voters. That's a dead heat, given the poll's 3.5-point sampling error. CNN chief national correspondent John King is in Denver taking a closer look at the polls and the race in that battleground state. John, what are you finding?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you're finding a lot of energy and excitement here. Intensity on both sides. And if you look deep into our polls, you see why turnout, get out the vote is so critical over these next five days, including the last several hours of early voting, which ends tomorrow. Early in-person voting ends tomorrow.

Look at this. In Denver and Boulder, those are the most urban areas of the state, the president has a nearly 30-point lead. Sixty- three percent to 34 percent for Governor Romney. That is the base of the Democratic Party here. The president has to get high turnout in Denver and in Boulder.

Then, if you look into the Denver suburbs, which are critical in close statewide election, the president also has an edge there, 53 percent to 45 percent. Governor Romney, who's going to be here over the weekend, probably needs to cut into that a bit to win on election day, but that's very competitive.

And if you look at the rest of Colorado, it's more rural, it's more conservative. Governor Romney racking up a big lead there: 55 percent to 43 percent. He needs to get turnout in those little small towns to offset the president's advantage in the bigger urban areas.

But Kate, as you mentioned, a statistical tie heading into the final days here. A lot of excitement. Only nine electoral votes, but when you look at the different scenarios to get to 270, Colorado could be critical for both campaigns.

BOLDUAN: How critical is the role of independent voters in Colorado? We know they're important pretty much in every state, John.

KING: Well, there's about parity here. It's about parity. It's about a third Democratic, about a third Republican, and about a third independent. The campaigns are running even among independent voters right now, and that's also a huge factor and a huge wildcard in the early voting.

About 1.3 million votes have already been cast in Colorado. I talked to the secretary of state today. He says that's probably half the presidential electorate has already cast their ballot.

Now, Republicans have about a 36,000-ballot advantage in terms of Republicans who requested and then returned early ballots, but there are 342,000 unaffiliated. So independent voters not affiliated with either party, Kate. They've already voted here in the state of Colorado, and you and Wolf have covered a lot of elections. This is my seventh presidential election. You think you've seen it all.

Here in Colorado today I saw two firsts. No. 1, drive-through voting. You don't have to even get out of your car. If you requested an absentee ballot, you can drive up to the Denver election headquarters, roll down the window, and hand your ballot to an official who takes it and puts it in a sealed ballot box.

We also went in and watched them counting some of these votes. They're already doing that. And on a sample ballot here, you can vote for President Obama. You can also vote for Governor Romney and if you want, you can vote for Roseanne Barr.

BOLDUAN: There you go, that's America for you. John King in Denver for us. Thanks so much, John.

BLITZER: All right, some new information just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The September 11 attack killed four U.S. citizens, including the United States ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

CNN's intelligence correspondent, Suzanne Kelly, has just returned from a high-level briefing on this. Suzanne, what did you find out?

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, a senior U.S. intelligence official who offered almost a minute-by- minute blow on what happened that night, the night of the attack in Benghazi, said they felt passionately about setting the record straight after FOX News reported last Friday that officials within the CIA chain of command denied repeated requests from its officers on the ground to assist during the attack on the U.S. mission and were actually ordered to stand down.

A senior intelligence official says there were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support, the official insisting that the CIA operators on the ground were in charge of what they did and when they did it that night, and with the safety of those who were preparing to respond was also a very important consideration.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this timeline. What are you learning about how long it took the CIA -- CIA officer to actually respond to what was going on?

KELLY: We do know a lot more now than we knew in the weeks after. As the official says, there was a roughly 25-minute gap between the initial call for help from the consulate, the time that that came into the officers at a nearby annex, the time when the officers were in the car on the way to assist.

We're told that during that time the officers at that annex location were getting their weapons loaded in the vehicle while others were on the phone, trying to get local, so-called friendly militias, if you will, Wolf, with heavier weapons to come in and assist them.

BLITZER: There was also a suggestion, as you know, that officers on the ground were asking for military back-up, but that the CIA chain of command actually denied those requests.

KELLY: I can't use the actual word that they told me, but I can tell you that the official offered a very passionate statement that it was simply not true. In fact, the military said it did provide -- or the military did provide assistance, according to this source, the officials saying that the U.S. military support was essential and much appreciated, that it provided overheard ISR, which is, of course, drone surveillance, tactical support sent to the scene from Tripoli, and medevac, medical evacuation.

BLITZER: So this was all coming out now. There's a lot of political ramification. The official did not want to speak on the record, is that what you're saying?

KELLY: Yes, that's right. Yes, that's right. And I think you touched on it exactly; it's political. We're now five days before the presidential election, and this issue of what happened that night in Benghazi and how the U.S. responded, what intelligence knew, when they knew it, has become so sensitive that there's a struggle within the intelligence community of people who really want to set the record straight for those people who made this decision, the people who died that night. And they're struggling to find ways to do that without making it more political. I think it's impossible.

BOLDUAN: Impossible.

BLITZER: We'll continue to follow this story, as well. Suzanne, thanks for that update.

KELLY: Thank you.

BLITZER: An amazing story.

KELLY: Still unfolding, Wolf, absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Heading back to Sandy now. Some good news for storm victims in New Jersey worried about being able to vote on election day, only five days from now, if you needed another reminder. Governor Chris Christie and his lieutenant governor addressed those concerns today and suggested things are looking up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: They have put out restoration time periods of eight to ten days before the new personnel. So I would suspect it's going to be less than that, significantly less than that.

LT. GOV. KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY: If you don't have power, the clerks are going to report to me tomorrow by noon that they don't have power. The back-up plan is pretty simple. All the assets that the president of the United States delivered to the governor yesterday, including Department of Defense trucks, will be used to create polling places.

Now, there's no reason not to vote. There's no reason not to vote today. And there's certainly no reason not to vote on Tuesday five days from today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: In the face of all of this devastation, there are many ways you can help. Go to CNN.com/impact. There, you'll find the eight specific things you can do to have exactly that. An impact.

We'll be right back.

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BOLDUAN: Her meltdown melted the hearts of even the toughest political junkies. A little girl who simply had too much of this long election campaign. Jeanne Moos brings us a little closer.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are you suffering from election burnout?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm Barack Obama and I approve...

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Mitt Romney, and I approve...

ROMNEY: Let me respond.

MOOS: Has it left you feeling as cranky as a 4-year-old?

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why you're crying? Oh, it will be over soon, Abby.

MOOS: Abigail Evans hit a nerve. "I feel ya, Abby." "Sweet baby, I know how you feel."

(on camera) Abigail and her mom were pulling into the grocery store parking lot listening to NPR when Abby started to cry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The election will be over soon, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just started telling her, you know, "Oh, my God."

MOOS (voice-over): And so, Abby's mom hit record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Little kids say what everybody wants to say. Actually being able to cry about it.

MOOS: Or as "TIME" magazine put it, we are all Abigail Evans. Well, maybe we couldn't all reel off the planets the way this smart Fort Collins, Colorado, kid can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

MOOS: Abby wants to be an astronaut. Since the radio was tuned to NPR when Abby had her meltdown, NPR apologized. "Dear little girl, sorry we made you cry." But Abby seems to be a fan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is NPR.

MOOS (on camera): The funny thing is that Abigail's family doesn't even have a TV, so Abby hasn't been subjected...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a president doesn't tell the truth...

MOOS: ... to all those campaign commercials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just think what Mitt Romney might do as president.

MOOS (voice-over): Other little girls have gone viral for crying; crying over Justin Bieber.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I love Justin Bieber.

MOOS: Crying after the Vikings lost to the Packers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because the Packers won.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Packers won?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

MOOS: So Abigail didn't just cry for all of us; she gave the president a new name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm tired of Bronco Bamma.

MOOS: "Bronco Bamma" inspired a T-shirt and this mash-up, so a tip of the hat to Abigail Evans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it will be over soon, Abby.

MOOS: And please, no recaps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The election will be over soon, OK?

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: There are a lot of people feeling the same way as that little Abigail.

BLITZER: Represents a lot of the folks out there. Five days to go. They want it over.

BOLDUAN: They want it over. Not Wolf Blitzer. He does not want it...

BLITZER: No, I like it -- no. See what happens Tuesday.

BOLDUAN: Let it go on.

BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. You can tweet me, @WolfBlitzer.

BOLDUAN: You can tweet me, @KateBolduan.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.