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Final Election Day Push; Hurricane Relief Efforts Continue

Aired November 2, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin right here in New Dorp Beach on New York's Staten Island with breaking news, news that is especially welcome here. The New York City Marathon, which was scheduled, as you know, for Sunday which starts here on the island has been canceled for the first time in its 42-year history, and that is a huge welcome relief to a lot of people here, who frankly were just outraged with the idea that the marathon would take place and would take resources that are still badly needed here.

There's a lot of people here on this island tonight who feel like they have been forgotten and it really wasn't until today that they started to see supplies coming in and a lot of it in the area that I'm in right now is just volunteers, folks who have come here on their own from other parts of the city or other parts of Staten Island with food, whatever they can bring.

There's a lot of folks who live down the street in pitch blackness and they're afraid to leave their destroyed houses because of safety concerns. They don't want to leave their things out. This is the home of a woman named Sheila Traina. It's all that's left of her home. She's lived here for some 40 years.

She was able to salvage a few supplies. She brought them out onto the street yesterday, her sons did, and unfortunately the sanitation department came by and basically mowed them all back into the rubble. She has to once again go back into her home to try to pull out her supplies.

There's a lot of outrage here. We are going to get to that tonight.

We also have a lot of breaking news tonight. Late today, power which was you knocked out when the Con Ed transformer blew in Manhattan began coming back on in Lower Manhattan. One man saying his entire neighborhood broke out cheering when the lights turned on.

Not all of Lower Manhattan, though, has their lights again. Late word the Pentagon will be trucking in millions of gallons of badly needed fuel. I just talked to a police officer here on Staten Island about an hour or two ago who was saying the police themselves are running out of gas on this island.

As you can see from the lines for gas and supplies, progress is incredibly uneven. To alleviate the shortage we're just learning that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed an executive order implementing odd/even rationing for gas purchases in 12 New Jersey counties.

Odd numbered and even numbered license plates on alternating days. The human toll, meantime, it is growing. At least 22 people have now lost their lives here, the least populated of New York's five boroughs and the highest death toll. For Staten Islanders, especially the idea of a global sports and media spectacle being held on their shattered doorstep, it was infuriating and understandably so.

Today, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg who had been pushing for the race backed down, saying the marathon had become a source of controversy and division. The thousands of runners from around the world, they are already here. Minutes after the decision we sent some of our producers to Central Park to get reactions from runners. Some were surprised to get the news.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are very disappointed to know it is canceled. You are sure?

QUESTION: I'm sure.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are from Germany. And we prepared us for over one year for this run. And that is bad, totally bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can we do? We keep on running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will come back next year.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We will come back next year. OK?


COOPER: Reaction from some of the runners. I can tell you, reaction -- Deb Feyerick, who has been here now reporting for quite a while, reaction was pretty much unanimous on the island.

The idea that runners were going to be running around when people here feel like they have totally been abandoned. When I was driving over here, I passed by the start of the race point. There must have been more than 100 port-a-potties, pristine port-a-potties behind looked like a barbed wire fence unused and their generators just sitting there, yet there's all these people here without power. That infuriates people.


The people that need the port-a-potties and the generators were not the runners, but the people who are living in these houses. COOPER: They have probably been sitting there for days unused.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right.

This debris, as you know just driving around, is indicative of every street, every block in front of every house. The magnitude of it was so extraordinary. A lot of the critics felt this was a diversion, that it was a distraction, that resources, the priority was completely wrong. Hotels that are now housing people who have been left homeless, those folks were going to be kicked out.


COOPER: There were some hotels that were going to kick out people who were basically, you know, had no place else to go, who were staying there for their homes, were getting kicked out because of prior reservations. That didn't make sense.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right. And then think about it, the Verrazano Bridge, that's the start point, right? That was going to be closed for an entire day. It was a diversion of police resources, those who would have to line the work.

They were talking about as this race brings $340 million into New York City, but at the same time, right now, the game has changed. We don't know if it will bring that much money in, whether all the runners were going to run, whether people were going to line up and spend their money, because the people sorely, sorely need help. That was the message.

Mary Wittenberg, when she stood up and said it was canceled, it was with a heavy heart, but so many people here, they were calling it disgusting, disgraceful, insensitive, that you could have a race blocks from where two little boys were washed ashore, where their bodies were found drowned. This is what Mary Wittenberg had to say, Anderson. Take a listen.


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


COOPER: I guess my question is what's going to happen to all the supplies? I guess those are privately owned. I'm not sure who owns them. But I would hope, and I think a lot of people here I talked to in the last hour or two hope that those things, the generators at the very least, would be distributed, the port-a-potties would be used here.

FEYERICK: That's what the New York Marathon is saying now, that they will mobilize the generators, they will mobilize the water, they will mobilize the food that was going to be used. The people need those port-a-potties. They don't have anywhere to go.

COOPER: No place around here.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right.

The reason people are staying in their homes, as you mentioned, Anderson, that's because there's looting going on. People's homes are being robbed. So to compound the tragedy, to compound the devastation, now these poor people basically, they don't want to leave.

The temperatures are dropping. Within the last hour or two, it dropped at least 20 degrees and the people here really desperately need help. Imagine if they took those buses they were going to use to transport runners and brought volunteers out there to help those people.


COOPER: And there's a lot of people who want to volunteer.

Deb Feyerick, appreciate the reporting.

I want to bring in Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who has been very vocal in saying that the city should cancel the marathon.

Appreciate you being with us.

Obviously, you're pleased it's been canceled. Again, we were talking about this before we went on air. There's all those port-a- potties just sitting there. When I saw that, I was kind of stunned that they have probably been sitting there for days now.

Sorry, we're having a problem with the mike. You're saying that...

NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS, STATEN ISLAND ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Certainly, these resources, the generators, the police personnel, the food, the water, the port-a-potties, we can certainly use these out here on the ground in different areas, New Dorp Beach, Midland Beach, all these areas Staten Island affected and people are really hurting out here.

COOPER: It does feel like and I know a lot of people here feel like they have been forgotten, especially in those first couple days. As part of the media, I'm as much to blame as anybody because we were out covering New Jersey and Queens and all the different places.

Do you feel now like more supplies are coming, people are starting to pay attention?

MALLIOTAKIS: Absolutely. In the first few days, it was a problem with communication. No one's cell phone was working. Obviously all electricity, the power, it was gone. Phone wires were down. We could not communicate to each other. But we were able to get across to the city just how dire the situation was here in Staten Island and they did respond. They have come through now. We have American Red Cross on the ground, we have FEMA on the ground, we have tremendous amount of volunteers in the community and donations from around this community, people going to various churches and we have so many distribution points for food, water, clothing.

But those first two days, I was walking out here distributing food, water with one of our local churches, Crossroads Church, and, you know, and Rab's bowling alley who collected a bunch of stuff and we were the only ones out here. I'm so happy that now...


COOPER: I had people coming up to me in Manhattan today saying I want to help the people on Staten Island, I don't know where to go or how to do it, what they need. What would you recommend?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, I will say tomorrow at 9:00, we're meeting right here at New Dorp Beach to do cleanup. I'm asking people if they want to come down, bring their own shovels, brooms, bags, garbage bags and gloves, and we could certainly use all the help that we can get.

We are going to be cleaning up the New Dorp Beach area and then the Midland Beach, some of the Midland Beach area, and then we will try to see if we can continue that in different neighborhoods.

COOPER: How would people from Manhattan who are watching this who have power, how would they get over here?

MALLIOTAKIS: That's a good question.

You would have to drive, unfortunately, but the gas is scarce, so it really is a difficult situation.

COOPER: The bridge is open, though.

MALLIOTAKIS: The bridge is open. But it's my understanding the ferry's still not running and so it would be difficult for people, especially with the gasoline situation we have here, if we have people lining up half a mile, mile just to get gasoline.

COOPER: Hopefully, people can carpool. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

MALLIOTAKIS: Thank you so much for bringing attention to our community.

COOPER: It's about time. Thank you very much.

There's, again, breaking news on gasoline in New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie ordering rationing for odd and even license plates starting on Saturday. No word yet whether New York's governor will follow suit on that. There are gas lines here, obviously, on Staten Island, gas lines, in fact, across the area. Take a look. This was the scene in Edison, New Jersey, about 15 miles west of here. The irony, northern New Jersey is full of refineries and tank farms. Without power, though, they can't pump fuel into tanker trucks or resupply stations. For every station that is pumping gas, another one can't because their power is out, too.

New York's Harbor back open to shipping, which may help. "The New York Daily News" reporting a tanker today unloaded 200 million gallons of gas. The governors of New Jersey and New York have lifted certain regulations on out-of-state fuel.

Again, along with the rationing in New Jersey, federal authorities have asked the Pentagon to start trucking in fuel, 24 million gallons into the region. There have been some setbacks as well, though. About 300,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled at a facility along the waterway separating this island from New Jersey. It happened during the storm.

A tank ruptured, apparently. Containment units kept most of it out of the water, but it's fuel that will not be making it into the supply chain. And diesel or gas, the bottom line is pretty simple tonight. All across the area, it is just plain tough out there, as Susan Candiotti discovered earlier this afternoon.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here we are in Hasbrouck Heights, Bergen County, New Jersey.

We found a gas station that not only has power, it has gas and look at the long lines. You got two sets of them, one over here, it stretches back I don't know how far yet. Police officers standing by to make sure everyone is cool. And a separate line over here with people who have come here with gas cans. You can only buy $40 at a time.

So here's the line. Haven't found the end of it yet. But, look, we're passing along the way yet another gas station that is closed. So the one we found is a gem. Look at all those cars, still no end in sight. There's the end of the line. All right. We are slowly inching forward.

OK. I think something is up now, because we're suddenly starting to move forward very quickly here. I have a sinking suspicion that they may be out of gas. So we have only been in line for, let's see, about 20, about half-an-hour now.

Have you heard -- I'm with CNN. Have you heard anything? Do you know if they have run out of gas or what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just waiting at the last one. They just ran out. I think I waited about 30 minutes.

CANDIOTTI: You were waiting at another gas station about a half- hour and that one ran out of gas?


CANDIOTTI: No gas at this one. No gas here either. This looks like a gas line here. We're going to take it, 4:26. We will see how long it takes us to get on the front of this line and keep our fingers crossed that they don't run out of gas.

You're in line. We're in line to see how this goes. How long have you been waiting?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think about an hour.

CANDIOTTI: How do you spend the time? I'm checking out this Web site called, let's see, Let's see if we can find out anything on here.

Moving up again, look at that line of cars behind us. Oh, boy. Well, we are starting to lose some light. But maybe we will make it up there before it gets totally dark. This is the best part, moving up, inching up again, inching, inching up again. OK. It's getting darker and darker.

And we have now gone three-tenths of a mile. Time check. Here we go. It's been almost two hours. It's just before 6:00.

Hi, I'm sorry, I'm with CNN. And we have been in line doing a story. We're in line for the gas. Can you just tell us what is the latest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're out of gas until tomorrow.


COOPER: Susan, after all that time, they're out of gas?


CANDIOTTI: Yes. Anderson, they're all out of gas. It's like a ghost town here at this place.


CANDIOTTI: I can hear you. Anderson, they're all out of gas here.

The bottom line is we failed in our mission, but we have a better idea now of what it was like to go through the process. We saw a lot of waiting, a lot of frustration, but people were remarkably poised and patient about everything.

We also saw a lot of good Samaritans, people helping each other, sometimes even pushing cars that had run out of gas just to get to the fuel pump. They're supposed to get more gas tomorrow, but there's no sure bets in this thing -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's good that things were orderly. Susan, appreciate that. I want to correct something. It turns out the Staten Island Ferry is up and running. So that is certainly good news. The Staten Island Ferry is running, so if people from Manhattan who have power and are able to want to come to Staten Island and help volunteer, they can take the ferry out tomorrow. They can take a bus from the ferry out to New Dorp Beach, where they want to have a cleanup around here.

I'm telling you, there is so much need here. Look at the house behind me. It's like this block after block after block. So many people here have no power, no generators, no gasoline, even if they do have generators. Consequently, some may be unaware there is assistance available to them.

If you do have power and if you're watching this right now, you know people in need, you can find out more on their behalf by calling FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. That's 1-800-621-3362 or

To donate, importantly, call the American Red Cross at 1-800-733- 2767. You can text Red Cross to 90999 to make a $10 donation or go to We will put that, all this on our Web site, -- also -- or

There's Direct Relief International at, 1- 800-676-1638. And the Salvation Army is at 1-800-725-2769 or online at www.

Finally, as always, you can go to, where you will find more information about how you can make a difference and links to the agencies and organizations to help you do it.

We have met so many people here who have just come, there were guys on motorcycles, like a motorcycle group that was down here with food. I just met a young blind woman who is here with her seeing-eye dog. She came, mobilized a group of her friends and they have been handing out food. It's just extraordinary what is happening here and more of it needs to happen in the days to come.

You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Tweet me and let me know what you're thinking about this entire situation.

Up next, we will take a closer look at the damage here when we come back as well as the stepped-up state and federal presence.



SHEILA TRAINA, RESIDENT OF STATEN ISLAND: We have nothing left but the clothes on our back. We have to start all over again.

COOPER: How do you do that?

TRAINA: I don't know. I don't know. I just hope we get help.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That's Sheila Traina.

Behind me, this is the wreckage of her home, lived here for more than 40 years. It's just one house on one block. There are so many people hurting here tonight and they're not happy about the response so far, and understandably so.

Gary Tuchman takes a look at why.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This sign says it all. There is seething anger on Staten Island and no one is the recipient of more of that anger from Staten Islanders than New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

ADDI CARLO, NEW YORK: He's in his nice mansion warm and dry. We're freezing our asses off with no power, no nothing. I'm sorry. The man's delusional.

TUCHMAN: Much of New York City's least populated borough is without power. Many of the streets look like they were bombed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sliding door is in the kitchen.

TUCHMAN: Many Staten Islanders don't know where to start. FEMA and the Red Cross are setting up shop in a city park. These three women who live on the same block lost houses and cars and walked a half mile to the park to find out they will have to wait until Saturday for the FEMA sign-up process to begin.

(on camera): What do you think of what -- when you walk around the neighborhood in Staten Island?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. It's a war zone.

MICHELE BELLOLI, NEW YORK: It looks like something on TV. It looks like something on TV. You know? No, it looks like a newsreel from one of the other disasters. It doesn't look like my neighborhood. I'm here 40 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there a basement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. There was a basement.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): City building inspectors walk around neighborhoods declaring the obvious about homes that are no longer inhabitable. It's all made so much harder because winter-like temperatures have now arrived.

BELLOLI: We're freezing. Bottom line is that we're so cold because we have nothing, no electricity, no gas.

TUCHMAN: And no hope that this personal trauma will go away any time soon.


COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins me now.

It's pretty remarkable. It's Friday. This storm happened Monday night now. It's been all week and there are still people walking around shivering here.

TUCHMAN: I think people here are not only upset and angry and cold, but they're also shocked. When you live in Miami or New Orleans or Biloxi or the Outer Banks of North Carolina, psychologically you're prepared for the possibility of a horrible hurricane, but when you live in New York City, that's not at the top of your mind.

I think there's a lot of shock here.

COOPER: I got to ask about the story you reported on last night, which is the two kids whose bodies were found. Their mom says that she tried to get help at somebody's house Monday night and that the guy rebuffed her.

You interviewed the guy. He claims it was a man who came to his door, not a woman, which doesn't make any sense, frankly, and the story he told of what happened sounded exactly like her story, except she said it happened to her and he was claiming some guy did it.

Has there been any update? Is there anything that can be done?

TUCHMAN: No, there's no update at all. A lot of police officers we talked to said they want the guy to be charged criminally. There really is no statute for that.

One thing that's so interesting though about this, Anderson, this poor mother lost her two children. A lot of people have been asking me is there a father of the boys, is there a husband? The answer is yes and that man works for the city, New York City, for the sanitation department. And he was out in the field working that night during the hurricane when his sons perished.

COOPER: Unbelievable. I have had so many people e-mail me about it today and about your report. So, I appreciate the update, Gary. Thank you very much.

TUCHMAN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: As we have been reporting, of the 40 deaths in New York City, Staten Island suffered at least 22. Fewer than half a million people live in the borough, not a small number by any stretch, but the entire island, it has really got a small-town feel to it. People here go back generations, tight-knit in the best of times, close-knit in the worst of times and heartbroken now.

With me once again tonight, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro.

Appreciate you being with us.

We spoke last night. You said FEMA was going to come today. Are you feeling better about...



I had an occasion yesterday when I left your office after the interview. There was a conference call between me and Andrew Cuomo and the president of the United States. We laid it all out, and we were promised all types of commitments for today, and they're coming true.

COOPER: You talked to the governor and you talked to president?

MOLINARO: Yes, yesterday. As soon as I left your office, my phone went off, and it was the governor trying to reach me to say he was putting together a conference call, and would I wait? And I waited.

COOPER: And Secretary Napolitano came today?

MOLINARO: Came today. She came today. I met her at the airport. Had a nice conversation with her on the way to the Miller Field and things are looking up.

We have all kinds of -- in fact, I have a whole team of FEMA people, the deputy sleeping in my office. I got cots there. I got a whole team. They said, it's at your disposal, Mr. President. You got whatever you got to do.

COOPER: I feel bad that I wasn't and that we weren't here sooner, because we were so focused on New Jersey and Queens and all the other places.

But you come here and, I mean, my God, it's unbelievable.

MOLINARO: Then you know my frustration.


MOLINARO: The frustration that I had when I didn't have no help, no support, what it was doing to me. It was killing me. That's why I spoke out, get angry.

COOPER: And that's what it took. It made a difference.


COOPER: It's frustrating that it took you yelling yesterday morning to start to get people to pay attention. But thank God you did.

MOLINARO: That's right. Pay attention, right. You see the damage here done.

COOPER: Yes. What do you make -- you know, you walk around here and there was like a motorcycle group here handing out food. There's a blind woman here on this street with her dog handing out food to people.

MOLINARO: No surprise to me. No surprise to me.

COOPER: No surprise.

MOLINARO: I tell you what, I know the population. I know the people. We were down in Miller Field.

And there's this young lady with her son as volunteers giving out food. So I went over there. I said did you have any destruction or any harm to your house? He said, well, not really. He said a tree did fall down and crush my car. He said, but that's all right. I said, you're here as a volunteer? Of course, he says. These people need the help.

That's the people you have to stand out. That's the people you have got to be standing out.



COOPER: My family goes back hundreds of years on this island.

MOLINARO: I know that.

COOPER: To see it like this is just stunning.

MOLINARO: Absolutely.

But we're getting a lot of support now. We have Red Cross trucks going up and down through the community telling people that we have food and tomorrow I'm going to look at two warehouses where I will get food. The Yankees just called me. They are going to send me down a load of jackets.


COOPER: I have had people stop me on the streets of New York today as I was walking along and saying, how can we help Staten Island, what we can do? What do you tell people ?

MOLINARO: We started a foundation this morning, believe me, through the Siller Foundation, which is one through the (INAUDIBLE) run, which does once a year. And this morning, up to now, I raised almost half a million dollars.

COOPER: Half a million dollars.

MOLINARO: Half a million dollars already.

How can people contact that?

MOLINARO: Well, it's the Siller Foundation.

COOPER: Siller Foundation. OK. We will get the Web site and we will put it on our Web site.

MOLINARO: Yes, the Web site. I would really appreciate that. And we're going to start using that to pump our basements and get...


COOPER: I'm hoping of this stuff that's been secured for the race is going to get distributed.

I saw like 100 port-a-potties just at the start of the race. Can that stuff get distributed to people here?

MOLINARO: Well, we could use it some places. We could use it some places. I was speaking to Speaker Quinn today just on that subject today.

COOPER: All right. We will continue to stay in touch. Thank you.

MOLINARO: Thank you. And thank you for what you're doing.


COOPER: It's a little late. But I appreciate it. Thank you.

We have got a lot more to tell you about in our coverage of this devastating storm. And I want you to meet that young blind woman who's here giving out food, because she's again one of the heroes of the storm. There's just a block of heroes. I have got to tell you that.

But we want to get to -- also up to date on what would normally be the biggest story here, the presidential election just days away. Both the president and Mitt Romney pulling out all the stops in the battleground state of Ohio, where the race, well, it's about as close as it can get.

We will be right back.


COOPER: I got to tell you, the last thing that anyone here on Staten Island is thinking about is the presidential election or politics. I think people are sick right now of politicians and promises. And a lot of people here just feel, I was just talking to a gentleman during a commercial break who is outraged. He just feels politicians have forgotten them, especially the mayor and others, they feel like they haven't shown up here in force and not soon enough.

It's really impossible for a lot of people on Staten Island to focus, understandably, on anything but their own survival right now. Their own future. Day by day, hour by hour in some cases. Obviously everyone, a lot of folks from the northeast who have been affected by this tragic storm are not focusing on the presidential race, and so it feels a little strange to talk about it here, in this spot, with all the reality of what's happening all around us.

But there is a race to tell you about and a lot of people around the country are following it closely. And so we want to bring you up to date on the latest on that and tell you what's going on.

There's a presidential election just four days away, of course, as you know that. President Obama, Mitt Romney both spent the day in the state of Ohio. Romney gave a speech in Wisconsin this morning before heading there. The president had rallies in three different cities in Ohio.

The latest CNN/ORC poll shows the president leading Romney by just three points in Ohio, a razor-thin lead that's within the poll's margin of error.


COOPER: Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta and White House correspondent Jessica Yellin. Jim, the candidates' messages are very different, but their itinerary over the next few days couldn't be more similar, could it?

ACOSTA: That's right, Anderson. They are basically battling for the same swing states over the next three days, the three final days of this campaign. Mitt Romney is in Ohio right now. He goes to New Hampshire later on tonight for an event tomorrow morning. Then he heads off to Iowa, Colorado. And then later on this weekend, heading into Monday, he goes to Virginia and Florida.

You know, Anderson, if you can lay the battleground map for President Obama and Mitt Romney almost on top of one another, because their schedules are so similar.

COOPER: Jessica, all year long, people have been pointing to this final jobs report the weekend before the election day. Doesn't seem to have made much of a splash, though, does it?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a little bit of both, Anderson. The jobs numbers in the end seem to be sort of a wash. They give something for both campaigns to talk about.

The president today acknowledged the numbers and pointed out that there was an increase in private sector hiring and that there were more people out looking for work, which is true. But he said it wasn't good enough.

And Governor Romney doubled down on that, said sure, it sure wasn't enough and pointed out that the unemployment rate is higher now than it was when the president came into office. And you know, how many people are still unemployed. So there is something there for both campaigns to feed their narrative. But the number wasn't eye-popping, so it isn't really an October surprise, doesn't change anything and the president just gave it a quick acknowledgment and moved on in his remarks, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, the Ohio poll, our Ohio poll today showed the president with a slim lead but within the sampling error. It's exactly what they showed really for the past month. We're just not seeing Ohio polls with the Romney lead.

Now, the Obama campaign suggested yesterday that's why the governor is headed to Pennsylvania, that he's running out of options. Off the record, does anyone in the Romney campaign say the same thing?

ACOSTA: Anderson, what they've been saying in this campaign in the final stretch here when it comes to Ohio is that this race is going to come down to independents. And if you look at the independent numbers in that latest CNN/ORC poll for Ohio, the president has a two-point deficit. Mitt Romney is leading by two points.

I don't think that's close enough for either campaign to feel confident, quite honestly. I think that's why you're seeing this event behind me right now, Anderson. Just getting to swing states.

We have roughly 100 governors, senators, other GOP heavy hitters taking the stage behind me. Rudy Giuliani was out here earlier, Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia. Kid Rock kicked off this event earlier. Not sure if we're going to see sort of a GOP version of "We Are the World," but there is representation from just about every battleground state.

And Anderson, the reason why is because if the Romney campaign can't win Ohio, they've got to cobble together a collection of other states to make the math work, and that is basically the agenda for the next three days.

COOPER: And Jessica, what are you hearing from the Obama campaign about how they feel about Ohio?

YELLIN: Well, you constantly hear about the poll numbers, the early vote. There's so many numbers being thrown out by this campaign, sometimes you feel like you're at the betting track.

But the bottom line is, it's a confidence game by both sides. And they do point out that, yes, the president is consistently up, even if it's within the margin of error, consistently up in every Ohio poll you look at. And that they have the advantage with the ground game.

And also, Anderson, as we pointed out before with the auto bailout. And that was a theme the president hit today in pretty stark terms. He really went after Governor Romney for that ad you and I have spoken about in the past where Governor Romney says that Chrysler is going to make Jeeps in China. And the president says that the CEOs of these companies have asked Governor Romney to stop making the ad and that Governor Romney is just trying to scare people.

The president's top two advisors, David Plouffe and David Axelrod, came to talk to the press and said that this is back-firing on Governor Romney, and people here don't like it. It is on the covers of some newspapers around the state. No evidence that's showing up in the polls, though, so we're really going to have to see how that plays out. But they are betting big that the bailout is going to pull out an Ohio win for them. We'll see.

COOPER: All right. Jessica, thanks. Jim Acosta, thanks, as well.


COOPER: Joining me now are CNN political analysts Gloria Borger, David Gergen and chief national correspondent, John King.

So John, the campaigns say they are ready for a late night waiting for Ohio returns. Look at the latest polls. What do they tell us?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you look at our new -- brand- new poll today, Anderson. It tells you the campaigns are right.

Now, we've got essentially a dead heat. The president has a 50 percent to 47 percent for Governor Romney lead among likely voters. That's within the margin of error.

If you look deep into the poll, they're tied among independents. The president is doing very well in Cleveland and Columbus, where he has to do well. Governor Romney's doing pretty well down here in the southwest corner of the state where I am and in the rural areas, where he needs to do well. So both candidates are doing well where they need to do well.

And so now they're just trying to turn up the energy and turn up the intensity, which is why they're both here in the state today. They will both be back in the state today. If you look deep into our poll, you have a classic dead heat in the classic swing state.

COOPER: David, you were saying a couple days ago you thought the president was an odds-on favorite to win. Do you still feel that way?

GERGEN: I do, Anderson. I -- I think his turnout operation is better in some of these states than Mitt Romney's. But if you look at the overall battleground states now, if you look at, say, the top ten battleground states, the polls show or the average of polls show that the president is clinging to a small lead in eight out of the ten battleground states. Mitt Romney is only ahead in two. And that would put the president well over the top in the Electoral College.

Now, as John King says, we don't know where this is going to go. You don't know about the enthusiasm rate. I was just in Ohio this week, and I can tell you, looking at the polls, you thought, well, Obama's going to win it. But if you talk to people on the ground, they say that's not the feeling we have here, especially the Republicans. They're pretty confident they're going to have a big turnout coming from the evangelicals, for example.

COOPER: Gloria, with unemployment numbers out today, obviously, it doesn't seem like these numbers have had much of an impact on the polls one way or another for the past few months. Is there any reason to think this month might be different so close to election day?

BORGER: No, I don't think it's really going to have any impact, because you can -- you can look into these numbers today, and you can take out of it -- each side can take something out of it.

A slight uptick in the unemployment rate. Mitt Romney can point to that and say, "You know what? Things are not going in the right direction."

The president can say there was more job creation than some anticipated, that this is a recovery that is continuing, that it is not sporadic, that he has created five and a half million jobs. And so, you know, the arguments on both sides.

And by the way, Anderson, millions of people have already early voted, I might add, in a state like Ohio, where John is. And so it's too late for them anyway. So I think this is baked and today, not really much of a difference.

COOPER: John, we're coming to the end, obviously, of the persuasion season. It's really all about turnout now. Is there a sense four days before the election of what turnout is expected to be?

KING: In most states, they think it will go up from 2008. Not all states. And Anderson, that is a critical question, because if we get an increase in the electorate and if we have the same diversity in the electorate we had in 2008, then the president is likely to win because of the changing demographics of the country.

If turnout goes up across the board, that means there are more African-Americans and, more significantly, more Latinos in the electorate, even if there are more Republicans than voted in 2008. So that is the defining question.

We stopped by both Romney and Obama campaign offices today here. I will tell you this, to back up David's point. When I was here at this point four years ago, it was crystal clear -- and this is a Republican part of the state -- that John McCain was going to lose, that Senator Obama was going to carry Ohio, and the winner of Ohio almost always wins the White House.

That is a big open question this time. And today, this is just one stop. Today, though, anecdotally, there's more energy; more passion. They're working harder at the Republican offices because they think they can surprise us on election day and make up that gap.

Now, to be clear, though, the Obama campaign has had a lot of time and a lot of money, because he didn't have a primary challenge. So this is going to be a test of whether the president spent his money wisely when the Republicans were fighting amongst themselves on a turnout operation. But this final weekend in Ohio feels a whole lot different than the final weekend four years ago.

COOPER: John, David, Gloria, appreciate it, guys. Thanks very much.

There's obviously going to be a lot more about politics in the days ahead, over the weekend and, obviously, Monday and Tuesday, of course. But I really do tonight want to focus on what's happening here and all around this region, because there's -- there's just a lot of folks in need. And I think a lot of other people would be reporting on elections and stuff, and I know it's important, obviously.

But we're here and I think the people here, they want you to know what is going on here. They want you to know what's happened to them.

The cleanup from Sandy has barely begun. Now another storm is taking aim at the northeast. Just ahead, the latest on the nor'easter that's heading our way.

Plus we're going to meet this blind young woman who has come here, one of the many volunteers who's just come here on their own, brought their own supplies with them. They're just doing an incredible job.

An amazing rescue story, a cab driver trapped in his taxi as Sandy pounded New York, pulled to safety by a complete stranger, being called a hero. You'll understand why. He joins me ahead.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back. Thanks for joining us. We're in Staten Island tonight.

Amid all the heartbreak and the loss this storm left behind, we've heard so many extraordinary stories of strangers helping strangers. We've seen that. We saw it in Katrina, we saw it in Haiti, and we've seen it here, as well.

We just met a young woman, Mary Beth Melendez. She's a graduate student of the College of Staten Island, who took it upon herself to make sure that the hungry here in this area were fed. She and some friends cooked up food and then set up a distribution center right on the street. No one asked her to do it. No one asked them to do this. They just stepped up to help.

Mary Beth, who's blind, has her guide dog with her. We talked a short time ago.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What made you come out here? MARY BETH MELENDEZ, GRADUATE STUDENT, COLLEGE OF STATEN ISLAND: Today, one of my classmates -- her name is Jennifer Calupo (ph) -- she reached out for help and told us that there was no services. They had no power. They were hungry; they were cold.

So I cooked up some food. I brought it down. I reached out to my classmates. They brought down food. So between myself, Ruth, George, Debbie, we brought down food and then all of a sudden, we became command central, and the National Guard, the FDNY had dropped off everything.

COOPER: So you've become like a command central here?

MELENDEZ: We became command central. What we did is I went to my classes, my classmates went to their classes. They dropped it off to me. We brought it down, and then all of a sudden people that wanted to donate started bringing stuff over, and this is the creation of everything.

COOPER: What's it like being here?

MELENDEZ: Well, because I'm blind, I want to tell you that maybe God blessed me, and I can't see the visuals because it hurts. It really hurts. And I've been working at the I.S. 51 evacuation site for the last six days so I heard their stories. I felt their pain. And I worked with them, and that's a lot to process.

So being here, it's overwhelming. So maybe the blessing is that I can't see the broken houses, but I can see their broken hearts.

COOPER: There's a lot of people who kind of say to themselves, "Oh, I wish I could do something." You just saw a need, and you just started to do it.

MELENDEZ: Well, yes. Trixie and I, I don't know. It's just -- it's the right thing to do, right? The human thing to do.

So I worked last year with Hurricane Irene. I volunteered my time, and I remembered what that was like. And I knew that in my house I had power. So I came over to the shelters to volunteer, and like I said, there's plenty of people here volunteering. I'm not in this alone. But it's just -- we're all in this together.

COOPER: You're in the right place at the right time.

MELENDEZ: Absolutely. And this is Janet. Where is she?

COOPER: She just left.

MELENDEZ: OK. Yes. She drove me down here.

COOPER: And this is?

MELENDEZ: This is Trixie. She is my seeing eye dog. And she's also a mental health therapist in training. And she is also my best friend. And she's quite the trouper. And she's brought a lot of comfort and a lot of love to families at the shelter and the kids there, as well.

COOPER: I think you're pretty amazing. Thank you for being here.

MELENDEZ: Well, you know, it's my pleasure. I wish we could do more.

COOPER: So do I. Thank you so much.

MELENDEZ: Thank you.


COOPER: An amazing young woman. I should say, she's still here, by the way. Right now, she's trying to find a vehicle so that she can take the extra food that's here and bring it to Breezy Point, Queens tomorrow. She wants to keep working.

Another incredible story of kindness and courage. Take a look at this photo that I want to show you. It's a cab being engulfed by water at the height of Sandy Monday night. The driver is trapped inside.

And that dark shape we highlighted, that's the hero risked his own life to rescue the driver. You can see he's making the way in chest-deep water toward the cab. His name is Jon Candelaria. He's the guy on the right in this picture. The man on the left is the cab driver he saved, who left the scene before anyone got his name.

Jon Candelaria is 6'5," was able to carry the cab driver to safety. He joins me here now in Staten Island.

It's incredible what you did. I mean, tell me about it. You basically saw this cab driver in need?

JON CANDELARIA, GOOD SAMARITAN: Yes, exactly. That's how it happened. I mean, I was in my apartment. I was just drinking coffee, and I just came from down there.

And I was already pretty much in for the night and as I looked out my window, I looked down, I see the cab driver come down on the road that was closed off. To this day I don't understand how he got there.

All of a sudden the cab gets up and it gets to the deepest part, and I knew he was in trouble. I just looked -- I just -- I did not -- I mean, I didn't think about my well-being.

COOPER: You're wading through, and the water is like waist-deep?

CANDELARIA: It's up to my chest. The water was up to my chest.

COOPER: Were you wearing, like, any gear?

CANDELARIA: I had a Northface jacket on, basketball shorts and some sneakers. COOPER: Basketball shorts on? And you're wading in the water anyway?


COOPER: And so you go get the cab driver and did you -- how did you get him out?

CANDELARIA: Well, it was a difficult task. It wasn't easy at all. I mean, I used all my strength trying to get the door open with the wind and the water, and I'm losing my energy and my strength. And it was almost impossible to be done.

Plus inside the cab, there was water already up to his chin. So it was pretty much a hard combination to do. So what I did was I told him, "Don't panic. We're going to open this door together. And on the count of three we're going to open the door." Counted to three, and as soon as I got to three, the wind just stopped for that one second, and we got the door open.


CANDELARIA: It was something like from the movies.

COOPER: And you don't know his name or anything?

CANDELARIA: Don't know his name. I wish that he's OK, you know. And I hope his family's all right. You know?

COOPER: You work at the Hard Rock Cafe?

CANDELARIA: That's correct.

COOPER: In Times Square?


COOPER: So you should get free cab rides, like, for life.

CANDELARIA: Everybody is saying that. Yes. I should. But...

COOPER: You should get a special card that gives you a free cab ride.

CANDELARIA: Right. You know, at the end of the day it wasn't about, you know, what I was getting in return at all. So I couldn't just have that on my conscience.

COOPER: There's a lot of people, I got to tell you, just would have stayed inside.

CANDELARIA: Yes, I heard that, too. And I couldn't -- I couldn't do nothing, just stand there and do nothing. I knew -- if I knew this was going on in front of me, I would have done it for anyone.

COOPER: It's an honor to meet you. Appreciate you coming out.

CANDELARIA: No problem.

COOPER: Thank you very much. Amazing. Jon Candelaria.

The last thing this region needs is another storm. That's exactly what the National Weather Service is predicting. Forecast for nor'easter next week for the Midatlantic states into New England. Chad Myers joins us with that.

Chad, where -- how big is this thing? How bad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it doesn't look bad. Certainly, it's not a hurricane. We're going to have winds maybe 30, 40, and gusts of 50.

But here's the deal, Anderson. You guys are stuck in a pattern that has a big ridge in the west and a trough in the east, and when that happens, sometimes these lows will come over and all of a sudden run up the East Coast. And sometimes they'll be one after the other. There could be more than one in a row. And you're going to see winds that are still going to be gusty.

The next thing you're going to see is temperatures continue to be cold, as long as that trough stays right here.

Here's the European model. We showed you the models for the hurricane. This is not a hurricane, again, but it does have rain all the way from Boston back to New York and maybe even western Pennsylvania. You could get some of that snow.

Remember, this thing is six days away. A nor'easter is almost impossible to forecast properly 24 hours away. So you're going to have to let the forecasters get a handle on this.

It is going to be cold. Philadelphia, you're going to be in the 30s. New York City, all the way down to 33 by Tuesday morning. That's the low for the day. Highs only in the 40s. You have five million people without power. You don't need more wind. You don't need more rain. You don't need rain coming in windows that don't exist or roofs that are gone. You certainly don't need temperatures in the 30s when you don't have heat.

COOPER: Well, we got to try to get electricity to folks quickly, because...

MYERS: Sure.

COOPER: ... before the temperatures really drop. It's already brutally cold out here. Chad, I appreciate the update on that.

The death toll from Sandy now approaching 100 in this country in the U.S. alone. We're learning more about the lives that were lost, and we honor some of those lives ahead, in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: The death toll from Sandy has edged higher all week. At least 97 people killed in the U.S. At least 40 of them lived in New York, and day by day we're learning more about who they are, the lives they lived. Tonight, four more families forever changed by this storm.


COOPER (voice-over): At the height of the storm on Monday, two best friends in the small town of Salem, New York, decided to spend the night together. Thirteen-year-old Michael Robson and his 11-year- old pal, Jack Baumler, were playing in Baumlers' family room, police said, when a fierce wind blew a 100-foot oak tree through the house.

A photograph of the house shows the entire second floor destroyed. Both boys were killed instantly. Two other children playing at the house were hurt.

At a wake before the funeral masses for both boys, Jack was remembered as an all-star baseball player, a kid who loved to talk and engage both adults and his friends.

Michael, relatives said, loved adventure and talked about becoming a park ranger. An uncle told the local newspaper quote, "Our hearts are broken. The pain is raw."

Not too far away, another family, another tragedy caused by Sandy. In nearby Pearl River, Jeffrey Channon, 51 years old, a retired New York City police sergeant, was home with his wife and children when a tree fell on their house.

Police say the power of the falling tree was so great that his body was forced from an upper floor to the ground. He was found outside his home, pinned underneath the tree. His wife and daughters were badly injured. His son called 911.

And on Staten Island, the scene of so much heartbreak, another wrenching story. Enormous waves churned by Sandy overcame the home of George Dresh (ph) in the island's Tottenville section. The local newspaper, "The Staten Island Advance," was given this photo of George a year ago. That's him on the far left with the white gloves. He'd been helping to clean up after hurricane Irene.

This time, neighbors told the newspaper that he stayed because the family's home had been looted a year ago when Irene had struck, and this is what was left after the storm moved on. Total destruction. He was killed, and so was his 13-year-old daughter, seen here on her Facebook page.

Angela Dresh (ph) was a middle-school student with tons of friends. One of them created a Facebook memorial page, and one wrote, "Seeing this makes me sick. Baby, please come home to us."

It's just so sad. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.