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THE SITUATION ROOM
Final Election Push; Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts Continue; Homeland Security Media Statement; Firsthand Look at the Devastation; Gas in Short Supply for Sandy Survivors; Sense of Abandonment on Staten Island; Mayor Defends Marathon Decision; Janet Napolitano Interview
Aired November 2, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: wrenching new stories of survival and heartbreak on Staten Island. We're going to meet a man whose business was looted after he lost much of his home.
Also, the growing fuel shortage in the disaster zone. Gas lines in some areas now stretch for miles. And, as Don mentioned, new poll numbers are just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from the state that could decide who the next president will be. We're talking about Ohio.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with the destruction from Sandy. Homes and livelihoods destroyed now lying in piles of rubble that stretch for miles across the New York City borough of Staten Island. Cleanup is under way. And with every new layer of debris that's removed, the tragic stories emerge of the residents whose lives have been turned upside down.
CNN's Brian Todd is on the scene for us.
Brian, what are you seeing on Staten Island right now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at just about every house you go to in the New Dorp Beach section of Staten Island, you hear horrific and pretty detailed stories of just how bad the storm was. Here's the story of one man who took a few hits.
TODD (voice-over): If you can't imagine what it's like to suffer through a massive storm, listen to Nick Camerada.
NICK CAMERADA, NEW YORK: The water was so high. It was up to this part of the door. I couldn't get into the door. I went around the side of the house. And I stood on a box that was floating. And I went through a window to get back in the house with my family.
TODD: Taking us through his house on Staten Island, the retired UPS truck driver says he and his family scrambled to an upper floor away from water he was sure would keep rising.
CAMERADA: Absolutely. We thought we were going to lose our lives. TODD: Camerada, his wife and four sons survived. Just about all of their first floor didn't.
(on camera): Then just as Nick and his family were recovering from the shell shock of the storm and the flooding and trying to assess all of this damage, he took another body blow.
(voice-over): He leads us to his side yard, where he had set up a small engine repair business and a trailer full of tools he'd need for his new profession.
CAMERADA: Last night, they were banging on doors. Anybody home? If you're not home, if we don't get a response from you, we're going to break your door down just to see if you're OK. They were all looters.
I yelled out my window on a few occasions until I was exhausted tired. I wake up this morning, pushed my shed open and went through all my tools. I got nothing. Every tool that was hanging that was worth anything, all my air tools, there's nothing in the drawers but handprints.
TODD (on camera): Could these have been people who you knew, Nick?
CAMERADA: It's sad to say they're neighborhood guys.
TODD: So they knew you? You knew them?
CAMERADA: Yes, I knew one of them.
TODD (voice-over): Camerada owns a house next door that was ruined by the flood. The tenant, Jeanne Valitutto, says she lost another home to a fire two years ago.
JEANNE VALITUTTO, NEW YORK: I can't even explain what did I do that the same thing happened to me twice. I feel like, why me?
TODD: A tenant, an owner, his family left with so very little except...
CAMERADA: My kids are alive. My wife is alive. We can move on.
TODD: Nick says he came up with a slogan for his new business. It says when your engine's sick, call Dr. Nick. But he's not Dr. Nick anymore, at least not for a while -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's he going to do now?
TODD: Well, he says he's going to try to get a job as a handyman, just try to find work in the neighborhood as a handyman, helping people with home repairs. But he's got one son in college, another son applying to college. So it's going to be pretty tough going for him for a while. BLITZER: Brian Todd, an emotional story. There are a lot of stories like that, unfortunately.
The president is now speaking about the aftermath of the storm. He's in Ohio.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No matter how tough times may get, we always bounce back. We're all in this together as one nation and as one people.
That spirit has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries. And it's what's carried us through the trials and tribulations in the last four years. Remember in 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Today, our businesses have created nearly 5.5 million new jobs. And this morning, we learned that companies hired more workers in October than in any time in the last eight months.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Home values are on the rise. Housing construction is moving up. We're less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last 20 years.
Because of the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is coming to a close. Al Qaeda's been decimated. And Osama bin Laden is dead.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: Oh, oh, oh, and one more thing. An American auto industry that had been written off is back on top of the world.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: So we have made real progress these last four years. But, Ohio, we're here because we know we have got more work to do.
As long as there is a single American who wants a job and can't find one, as long as there are families who are working harder and harder, but falling behind, as long as there's a child somewhere in Lima or anywhere in Ohio or in the country who is languishing in poverty and barred from opportunity, then our fight goes on. Our work is not yet done.
BLITZER: All right. So the president getting into his stump speech now after saying a few words about what was going on in the aftermath of the superstorm Sandy.
We're going to continue to monitor what the president has to say. We will bring you more of that. We also have some brand-new poll numbers just in from the critical battleground state of Ohio. You see the president is in Lima, Ohio, right now.
Our brand-new CNN/ORC poll shows President Obama with a narrow lead in that state, 50 percent to Mitt Romney's 47 percent. That's within the sampling error, making it still effectively a dead heat.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us right now. He's in Ohio as well.
John, take us inside these numbers.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are fascinating when you look deep in this poll. The president, you just showed he's here in Ohio. Governor Romney will be here tonight. They expect some 35,000 Republicans at his rally in this part of the state.
I'm in Cincinnati tonight. When you look deep in our poll you see this one will be fought out through the last poll closing on election night. Look at these two candidates among independents. Governor Romney with a slight edge, 48 percent to 46 percent. But, again, that's a statistical tie well within the margin of error.
The auto bailout is one of the things the president thinks will help him here in Ohio. You just heard him mention there that in this speech. Look at this. In the industrial northern part of the state, across northern Ohio, where you do have many auto-related direct factory plants and related industries, the president leads 52 percent to 45 percent. Some evidence there that especially among white blue- collar workers the president is doing better than he might have done otherwise without the auto bailout.
In a close statewide election, Wolf, what was fascinating four years ago when you visited where I am, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, you knew at this time the race was over because the president, then-Senator Obama, was doing so well here.
Look at our poll numbers here from Cincinnati and the southwest part of the state, Governor Romney ahead 52 percent to 47 percent in a region that is absolutely essential to Republicans if they are to win a close statewide election here.
We visited both campaign headquarters today in the Cincinnati area. Everyone concedes it is about as tight as it can get. The Democrats say it's much tougher, much tighter than it was four years ago. The question though, Wolf, is we have that slight lead, yes, within the margin of error. But the president has had a consistent two- or three-point lead in just about every Ohio poll conducted in recent months.
The Romney campaign is telling us it believes it can overcome that on Election Day with more intensity and more energy from the Republican base. We will see. As you know, Wolf, no Republican has ever won without this state. The Romney campaign concedes it very much needs it. BLITZER: If it's really close, John, there's been a lot of speculation on those provisional ballots that are available in Ohio that, that that could delay the outcome in that state. What's the latest you're getting on that?
KING: There is a possibility. This is a state where you have early voting. And you also have other provisional ballots that come in, ballots that are contested.
So, on Election Day, some ballots will be counted and some will be set aside and disputed. Look, let's hope as citizens that doesn't happen. But this state is so close right now and some other states are very close right now that both campaigns have teams of lawyers who will not only will be here on Election Day to watch, they have observers, but teams of lawyers ready to be in place if it's so close. Would there be an automatic recount triggered? Would there be court challenges over provisional ballots?
That is a possibility as we head into the final days here and the final weekend, Wolf. Not only the candidates out and busy, their legal teams are very busy studying all the rules as well.
BLITZER: Yes, the lawyers are very, very active right now. Let's see what happens. John, you will be back later. Thank you.
The most anticipated jobs report of the year is now out coming only four days before the election. The Labor Department reports hiring in October was stronger than expected with 171,000 new jobs added. The unemployment rate however ticked up .1 percent to 7.9 percent.
Let's talk about what this means politically with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, do you see these numbers, the unemployment number, the jobs created number, having a significant impact these final four days?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, not really at this point because of what you said. You saw the unemployment rate tick up a little bit.
So Mitt Romney can talk about how unemployment has ticked up. You saw job growth a little stronger than anticipated. So the president can say, you know what, this is a sustained recovery. It's not fast enough. But it's not that's spotty and it's sustained.
And that's just what you heard from the president in the campaign speech you just played a little bit of before because he talks about the fact that since he's been president, he's created nearly 5.5 million jobs.
So it really hasn't changed the calculation one way or another. By the way, Wolf, in a lot of these states, including the one John King is in, Ohio, there's been a lot of early voting. So it's too late anyway.
BLITZER: But the economy clearly is issue number one. I just want to alert our viewers, Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, has been in Staten Island touring that devastated area. I think she's going to be speaking to reporters shortly.
In fact, here she is right now. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We know that Staten Island took a particularly hard hit from Sandy.
And so we want to make sure that the right resources are brought here as quickly as possible to help this community, which is so very strong recover, even more quickly.
Just to give you a sense of an overview, it's been mentioned that this was a large storm. The area that Sandy covered was roughly the size of Europe. We had major disasters in a number of states that President Obama already has declared, emergency declarations in a number of states that have been declared.
We have seen some huge impacts on things like the availability of power. And with, of course, the loss of power comes attendant losses on things like gasoline. So all of these things, all of these issues being worked now as the community comes back and as we work to support Con Ed and other utility companies in getting the grid back on.
We have over 75,000 survivors in New York and New Jersey who now have applied for disaster assistance already. Almost $15 million is already on the street. This is assistance directly to individuals. That spigot is going well.
We have what are called disaster recovery centers. A disaster recovery center is kind of a one-stop-shop. It's where you can go and get the information about what assistance you can get, what the housing situation is, how you handle unemployment, if you need help with your kids in school, all the kind of associated issues that happen during a major disaster.
But we have five open today in New York, one in Connecticut. Even more will be opening over the weekend and by Monday. As of yesterday, more than 7.1 million liters of water and 1.6 million meals were positioned to be delivered into New York. More than 1.6 million liters of water and a million meals have been transferred to other states to supplement their existing inventory.
We have established a base at the Floyd Bennett Field here in New York. That's where we're bringing all the food and water. That's where the National Guard picks it up and takes it out to the delivery centers around the boroughs; 657 housing inspectors are already on the ground here helping individuals look at their houses, make a decision as to whether the house has any possibility of being restored or whether it's a total loss.
We have 3,200 FEMA personnel working this storm in the Northeast. And more are on their way; 11,800 National Guard already are deployed in the impacted states. And we expect more to come.
As was mentioned, 258 Red Cross shelters have opened. Nine federal search-and-rescue teams have been deployed, supplementing state and local efforts. And they have searched more than 3,300 structures in Queens and 870 structures here in Staten Island.
With respect to other assets that are coming in, we all know that power remains the fundamental issue. You should know that President Obama has said that all of the federal government is here to help. And that means the Department of Defense. And the Department of Defense yesterday was airlifting utility crews with their equipment here to New York, to New Jersey and other places impacted by the storm. And more of those airlifts we anticipate to be coming over the coming days.
There's an 800 number people can call, 1-800-621-3362, 1-800-621-3362. You can go to disasterassistance.gov. You can go to m.fema.gov. Or indeed if you go to a disaster recovery center, all of the information you need to find out about the assistance you are entitled to can be found.
And as was mentioned, people are now going door to door. One of my concerns -- I think all of our concerns is as the temperature drops with power still out in many neighborhoods, making sure that everybody is safe and if they need to get to a warm place that we're able to do that.
So, a lot of work ongoing. A lot more left to do. But the food, the water, all the assets coming into this area of the country, coming into New York. Governor Cuomo's been a great advocate, and coming into the borough of Staten Island. Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to continue to monitor Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security. She's been touring the situation in Staten Island. You see the president of the borough of Staten Island, Molinaro, right behind her.
We're going to be speaking with Janet Napolitano later.
We're also going to be speaking live with the president of the Manhattan borough.
There's lots going on including a huge debate in New York City right now over whether or not that marathon should take place this weekend as scheduled. Lots to talk about. What's going on in Lower Manhattan specifically when we come back.
BLITZER: Superstorm Sandy is without a doubt the biggest crisis New York City has faced since 9/11. For the latest on the aftermath especially in Manhattan, let's turn to the borough president Scott Stringer.
Mr. Stringer, thanks very much for coming in.
SCOTT STRINGER, MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT: Good to be here with you.
BLITZER: Earlier today, Con Edison reported 226,000 residents in New York and Manhattan -- Manhattan alone, are still without power. Has that number changed?
STRINGER: Well, that's an accurate -- that's an accurate number. We're hoping that some time tonight, the switch will go on and much of Lower Manhattan will then have kind of some electricity, which would go a long way in alleviating some of the problems we're facing in Lower Manhattan.
But make no mistake: it's still a dire situation. We have people who have no elevator service, no heat and hot water. It's getting colder in the city. And the challenges of Lower Manhattan are really the same as what you're seeing in Staten Island and Breezy Point and the Rockaways. We see problems in Brooklyn as well.
So we are in a very serious situation right now. Hopefully, it will get better over time. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo have really done an amazing job coordinating all of us to focus on relief. I think that's going very well. But we have a lot more to do.
BLITZER: Below 34th Street still is in the dark for all practical purposes, no power, no electricity. But you say the switch will go on for almost all of them or for a chunk of that area?
STRINGER: Well, that's still to be determined. I'm hoping that it will be a large chunk. We won't know for sure until the switch goes on. We're hoping that will happen later this evening or maybe much later.
But that will not solve the whole problem, obviously. We still have buildings that are flooded. So when the switch goes on, the lights won't go on in those buildings. We're still trying to deal with some of our New York City public housing buildings that have had some real issues.
So, this is a good step. But we have many, many steps in this process.
BLITZER: When do you expect full service to be restored to the subway?
STRINGER: Well, I got to tell you, our subway system, Joe Lhota, who's really been on top of this, the bus service is up and running. We have subway service north of 34th Street. But it's coming online piecemeal.
So, again, every day, it gets a little better. But we're still going to have a lot to do here. We still have flooded areas.
Governor Cuomo has done amazing work getting those tunnels pumped out. We were on a conference call, elected officials with President Obama and Governor Cuomo last night going over a lot of the issues, especially the housing issues that people will face. We've been in constant contact with the mayor's office.
The bottom line here is everybody's moving to get things done. But the challenges are so enormous, it's unlike anything I've ever seen as Manhattan borough president as a public official for 20 years.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers unbelievably long lines, people waiting two or three or four hours just to get on a bus. How much longer can a situation like that continue?
STRINGER: Well, that's by the way another issue that I think is getting more worse by the day. Cabs are running out of gas. And that's a transportation opportunity for people.
I haven't seen lines like this since the 1970s energy crisis. You know, Jimmy Carter in 1980 where you just had lines down the block of cars. We're back to that. Again, that's also going to slow us in terms of getting people out of this situation.
BLITZER: You know, there's a lot of uproar over whether or not the marathon this weekend in New York City should take place. You saw the front page of the "New York Post" today. Abuse of power, these massive generators are supplying electricity to the marathon's tent in Central Park. That's in Manhattan while New Yorkers suffer.
The mayor, Mayor Bloomberg, he defended the decision to let the marathon go forward. I'll play a couple of excerpts of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: It doesn't use resources that can really make a difference in recovery, and that sort of thing. It's a different group of people.
There will be no diversion of resources. There'd be no redistribution of our efforts. No diminution of our efforts. We have a 24/7 operation going, which I'm confident we're going to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So you believe the mayor?
STRINGER: I think the mayor wants very much to show the world how resilient New Yorkers are. Obviously a marathon is a great tradition of New York.
There's another tradition that I think we have to consider. And that is New Yorkers helping New Yorkers. I can't help but think that a generator that's now in Central Park heating the media tent would be better served in Staten Island or parts of Queens or in Lower Manhattan. We have very limited resources.
And I do respect the mayor's efforts on recovery. How can you argue with someone very successful? Ray Kelly standing behind him, he's police commissioner who knows how to get things done. But in a close judgment call, I ere on the side of caution. I've seen too many people waiting for hours to get food. I've seen too many people who are worried about relatives that are in buildings on the 20th floor and no one can seem to get to them.
I'm worried about our fellow New Yorkers in the Rockaways who have been devastated. People are homeless. And the fact that their homes may not be rebuilt for a year is also troubling.
I think we have to take every asset we have and focus it on the people in New York. And then we'll have a marathon. We'll postpone it and have the greatest marathon the world will I think respect us for it.
But I understand the mayor is grappling with this. And I've -- we'll see what the end result is, what the final, final decision will be.
BLITZER: You think it's still possible they might at least postpone it to a more appropriate time at least when people's lives aren't getting relatively back to normal that might be the right thing to do?
STRINGER: I think that once -- again, I have a hunch this might not be a final decision on this. I'm hoping that as we make these arguments -- obviously, this is a tough call by the mayor because you don't want to cancel a world event, but you also have to be mindful that as you showed on your TV screen, CNN showed, there are people who are suffering in ways that we can't imagine in that situation. And we want very much to help our people first.
BLITZER: Have you told the mayor how you feel? That you think it would be appropriate to postpone?
STRINGER: Listen, we've been in contact with city hall almost every day on recovery efforts. They've been very responsive to communities. And this is part of the conversation that we're having.
BLITZER: So you're still discussing it with them. But you want it to be postponed.
STRINGER: Listen, I would like to see it postponed. I was convinced when I was going around the Lower East Side and watching people wait for hours for food.
And I got to tell you, Wolf, you know what they asked me? They asked me about food. They asked me about shelter. The children were shivering.
But they really said to me, when are we going to be able to go back into our homes with electricity? And the other thing people ask me, are we going to be able to vote on Tuesday?
I could not believe people who are basically having no resources came up to me, are we going to vote on Tuesday? Is there going to be an election? And that's the best kind of democracy. And that's the New York attitude. People put up with so much. They deal with adversity. And they want to vote on Tuesday. I think that's the greatest point about our democracy. So let's not have a marathon, because no one asked about that. Let's get the vote done. Let's help people recover. And then we'll throw a marathon party the world will be envious of.
BLITZER: So bottom line, will they be able to vote? Will all those precincts have power? Will they be able to register and let people vote?
STRINGER: I believe we're going to get that done. We're going to have an election. And there's going to be huge turnout in New York.
You know, New Yorkers, you know, we bring it on. We can deal with adversity. Think about 9/11. Think about all this city has gone through.
And we're still the biggest, greatest city in the world. Everybody knows that. Everybody respects us. That's why the mayor wants to have the marathon, because we do the big things.
I just think in a close call, we ere on the side of caution. We go to Staten Island. We go to the Rockaways. We go to Brooklyn. We go to Lower East Side. We take those resources, take the generator out of Central Park and put it where it can do good for people who need it the most.
BLITZER: Scott Stringer is the borough president of Manhattan. He's got a huge job ahead of him.
Mr. Stringer, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in New York.
STRINGER: Thank you. We'll be watching Tuesday night.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
When we come back, Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, she's going to join us live. We've got a lot of questions for her right after this.
BLITZER: Going to speak shortly to the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano. She's just toured Staten Island. We'll get some questions to her. Standby for that live interview.
Meanwhile, many victims of the superstorm have had to rely on gas generators for power. And that's only one of the problems out there. It's so hard to find gas right now in the area devastated by the storm. No gas means no electricity and no way to fuel cars or buses.
Our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, waited in line at one gas station.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are in Hashburg Heights, Bergen County, New Jersey, on the outskirts of New York City, where they have lines here stretching for almost a mile at 6:00 in the morning. And finally by mid-afternoon they ran out of gas. And we are here with the last person who was able to get her gas can filled up. It doesn't look like you got much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't get much. No, I didn't.
CANDIOTTI: How long did you have to wait to get this one?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two hours. I had to park my car because I didn't have enough gas to wait on the line. And I was the last person who was able to get gas thankfully.
CANDIOTTI: This must be so hard to wait so long for so little. What are you going to do now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to go home and wait it out. Now I'm just going to head home and wait it out.
CANDIOTTI: Do you have power?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but no hot water.
CANDIOTTI: No hot water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
CANDIOTTI: How are you keeping your spirits up?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just hoping for, I don't know, it to be over by the weekend. Monday I'm hoping it will be better for me to return back to work. I can't stay home anymore. I'm ready to go back to work.
CANDIOTTI: Sure. Thank you very much. We wish you well. That's the thing no one really knows how long it will take to get the fuel and supplies running more quickly, more evenly.
But for the people who were in line and got to the front of the line and found out, nothing's left, what do they do next? Wolf, they just keep on driving, often for miles and miles and miles past a lot of stations before they find what they're looking for, a gas station that's open and has enough fuel to satisfy everyone's needs.
CANDIOTTI: Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Susan Candiotti, thanks very much. They need the fuel. They obviously need electricity. They need the power to get the fuel into the cars as well.
All right, we have a lot more coming up. We're about to speak with Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary. She has just toured Staten Island. You saw some of her news conference a little while ago.
We've got some good questions for her. Standby, much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: The Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is seeing the devastation for herself on this day. She's been touring the hard- hit Staten Island area. She's now joining us live.
Madame Secretary, thanks very much for coming in.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: You bet.
BLITZER: You know, the devastation has really been eye opening to a lot of us. And you just toured Staten Island with the borough president, James Molinaro.
He told us this yesterday, I'm going to play a little clip and I want you to let us know if you've responded to what he said. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MOLINARO, STATEN ISLAND BOROUGH PRESIDENT: There were no answers for these people. Some of these people that came into shelters, their homes have been destroyed the night before. They have no place to go. I need answers. These people need answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, he was speaking to Anderson Cooper. Did you give him answers today what was going on?
NAPOLITANO: Yes, I think so. And we have brought terrific resources to bear here in Staten Island from FEMA volunteers to the Red Cross, shelters are open, food and water's being distributed.
We're already getting money out to individuals to help them with temporary housing. You know, we are providing as much information as we can. We literally have people now in the shelters going person to person answering their questions.
And we'll be opening up several more centers throughout Staten Island where people can go and find out all of the benefits to which they are entitled. So the borough president and I had a great meeting today.
We met with some of the other leadership of the borough. I think things are in sync moving forward. It's a tough situation. It's going to be tough until power is restored and gasoline becomes available. Those two things are related.
It's going to be a cold weekend. But nobody should be lacking for shelter. Nobody should be lacking for food and water and health care and all the necessities of life as we work through the power situation. That's what's on our mind. It's life safety. It's public safety and recovery.
BLITZER: There was a lot of warning about this storm. And there are some complaints that there was not enough stuff, if you will, generators, water, food, shelter, prepositioned on Staten Island in advance. Did you have the proper material, the proper shelters, whatever prepositioned, ready to go?
NAPOLITANO: Yes. Preposition, you have to remember that we didn't quite know where this storm was going to hit. And you don't want to preposition in an area that's going to be hit by the storm.
So we picked an area right outside the likely storm zone and have been moving all of that material, the food and the water, into the affected area immediately so that for example into the Manhattan, Staten Island, New York City area, a million meals, more than a million liters of water.
And that's going to keep coming. That's going to be a steady flow. And in addition of course we work with our partners in the Red Cross and with the National Guard on distribution. So we were very well prepositioned.
BLITZER: But the stuff is only beginning to arrive today. Is that right?
NAPOLITANO: No. No, no. No. Stuff began arriving on Tuesday. But all of the centers and the places of distribution were not established right away. Those took a little time to get up and running.
But they're up and running now and even more are coming. So now we're in the process of working our way through the storm. You know, President Obama said whatever resource we can give and put into this cause, we are to do so and to lean forward. And that's exactly what we're trying to do.
BLITZER: I want to bring into this conversation if you don't mind, Madame Secretary, the borough president of Manhattan, Scott Stringer. You know, he's got a disaster on his hands below 34th Street in Lower Manhattan right now.
BLITZER: You have an opportunity right now, Mr. Stringer, to speak to the secretary of Homeland Security. She oversees FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Do you believe, Mr. Stringer, that the stuff you need -- you painted a pretty horrific picture of what's going on right now without power, without electricity, without gasoline in Lower Manhattan. Do you believe that the material is on the way right now? Has it arrived?
SCOTT STRINGER, MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT: Well, we are seeing the role of the federal government in action. As I mentioned earlier on this show, I was on a call with Governor Cuomo, President Obama and local elected officials.
And the president as the secretary said, said we're going to bring the full strength of the federal government to help in this. We see that already. There is a great collaboration between the governor, the president, the secretary and Mayor Bloomberg and all of us to try to get resources in.
Nothing I've learned in life runs totally smoothly. But when you have a commitment of resources, when you see the National Guard with hot meals banging on doors beginning that process in earnest, I think it bodes well for the future of our city.
We just need to work real hard because as I mentioned earlier, yes, we are in a dire situation. Hopefully, the lights will go on in a lot of Manhattan tonight. But even beyond that we're going to have to work very hard.
But we have a partner in the federal government. Barack Obama has made it very clear that this city is going to get his attention. The fact that the secretary is in Staten Island, was in Manhattan with the governor the other day working with Congress people, they are everywhere that we need them to be.
BLITZER: You want to say anything to the president of the borough of Manhattan, Madame Secretary? What's on the way, what the folks in Manhattan can expect in the days to come?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think the number one thing is power in Lower Manhattan. And associated with that is getting the tunnels pumped out so that they can be used again. So the Army Corps of Engineers has been moving in lots of pumps to help with that.
I think the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was being pumped out as we speak. That has 43 million gallons of water in it and the tunnel's over a mile long. These are huge pumping process.
But Con Ed told us today they thought they'd have power on for Lower Manhattan by tomorrow morning. And I think, Mr. President, you would agree with me that will be a great relief when those lights go back on.
BLITZER: One final question and I know you have to go, Madame Secretary. If you want to weigh-in on this dispute in New York City whether the marathon should take place this weekend, the mayor, Mayor Bloomberg says yes. The borough president, Mr. Stringer, says no. What do you think? Is it appropriate to have a marathon like that under these circumstances?
NAPOLITANO: Look, that is a decision for the local authorities to make. We will work through whatever it is we have to work through to get life necessities out there, food, water, shelter, work and getting power restored, work with utilities, getting gasoline available. That's going to be my focus for the next 72 hours.
BLITZER: Madame Secretary, good luck. Thanks so much for joining us.
NAPOLITANO: You bet. Thank you.
BLITZER: She's got to go. Mr. Stringer, a quick final question for you. Are you reassured that help is on the way? What can you tell the folks in Lower Manhattan right now that things are going to be fine? STRINGER: Look, it's very helpful that the secretary is in our city. The president is talking constantly to the governor. We have to coordinate well. And I do think it's going to be tough. I think it's going to be tough in Lower Manhattan. It's going to be tough around the city.
People are having real hardship. But I think if we allocate resources in an intelligent way, if we understand what's ahead of us, we'll get through this. New York always rises to the occasion. And our people understand that we have to make this work and we have to help each other. Neighbor to neighbor, that's how we've always done it.
BLITZER: Scott Stringer, once again, thanks very much. Good luck to you.
STRINGER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And good luck to everyone in New York and New Jersey and Connecticut and in the area that's been devastated.
We're going to continue our breaking news coverage what's going on there. Lots of political news, only four days left before the election. Much more coming up right after this.
BLITZER: As you saw here earlier this hour, President Obama's in Ohio right now. Not only touting the new jobs report that came out today, but also accusing Mitt Romney of trying to scare people with a very controversial campaign ad.
CNN's Chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin reports.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Ohio, the president saw the bright side of the new jobs numbers.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This morning we learned that companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months. The American auto industry is back on top.
YELLIN: Notice that pivot? The president turned quickly from jobs numbers to the auto industry.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We've been seeing this out of Governor Romney and his friends over the last few weeks.
YELLIN: No mention of government job losses or an unemployment rate uptick to 7.9 percent, but lots of time on a fight over the auto bailout and an ad from the Romney campaign.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And you can't try to scare people. This is not a game. These are people's jobs. These are people's lives.
YELLIN: He's talking about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build jeeps in China.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Of course, it turns out it's not true. The car companies themselves have told Governor Romney to knock it off.
YELLIN: The squabble over that spot has made headlines here in Ohio, the Obama campaign hit back on air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: GM calls Romney's ads politics at its cynical worst.
YELLIN: On the stump the president is casting it as part of a larger message.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Massaging the facts when they're inconvenient to your campaign, that's definitely not change. That's the oldest trick in the book. Yes.
That's what Governor Romney's been doing these last few weeks. And I know what real change looks like because I've fought for it right alongside you. And after all we've been through together, we sure can't give up now.
BLITZER: That report from CNN's Jessica Yellin. She's with the president in Lima, Ohio, right now. We'll speak with her later.
We have reporters all over the country right now getting ready for Tuesday's election. They're in all the key battleground states. Much more coming up from all of these reporters.
Meanwhile, the other big story we're following, the grim search for victims of superstorm Sandy. That search is by no means over. CNN went along with National Guard troops as they searched homes in an area that wasn't accessible until now.
BLITZER: New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fending off criticism of his decision to go ahead with Sunday's marathon. He spoke to reporters earlier today and made it clear that the race isn't taking anything away from the city's response to the disaster. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I don't think there's any question, but we have New Yorkers who have lost loved ones and nothing's ever going to replace that. People have lost their homes.
We have to make sure that we do everything we can to help them recover. We have to work around the clock for people to get through this thing. And I assure you we're doing that. If I thought it took any resources away from that, we would not do this.
But we have plenty of police officers that work in areas that aren't affected. We don't take all of them and move them into areas that are affected. There will be no diversion of resources. There will be no redistribution of our efforts.
No demolition of our efforts. We have a 24/7 operation going. Which I'm confident we're going to do. We have to do everything we can to help people. And when power returns over the next day and mass transit, more people are able to go to their homes. That's going to make a big difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On the other side, you just heard the borough president of Manhattan, Scott Stringer, tell us he disagrees with the mayor. He thinks that the marathon should be postponed.
Up next, our own Deborah Feyerick, she is on Staten Island. She's talking to residents. They are outraged at Mayor Bloomberg and the decision to let this marathon go forward, if it does.