Obama, Romney curtail campaign events in face of hurricane

WASHINGTON/DAVENPORT, Iowa Mon Oct 29, 2012 7:09pm EDT

1 of 9. U.S. President Barack Obama walks to the Oval Office of the White House upon his return to Washington, October 29, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON/DAVENPORT, Iowa (Reuters) - President Barack Obama suspended campaigning and returned to Washington on Monday to oversee the response to Hurricane Sandy, while his Republican rival Mitt Romney curtailed political events to show respect for the storm's potential victims.

As the storm cuts into the final week of campaigning in an especially close race for the White House, both men are trying to avoid coming across as overtly political while millions of people are imperiled by Sandy's fierce winds and driving rain.

Obama and Romney are virtually tied in the presidential contest, according to a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll released on Monday. It showed the Democrat leading by a single percentage point eight days before Election Day.

With the hurricane dominating headlines, Obama used the bully pulpit of the White House briefing room to show he was on top of the storm response effort.

He warned Americans in Sandy's path that it could take a long time before power was restored and transportation systems were running again, and he dismissed concerns of the storm's effects on the election.

"I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I'm worried about the impact on families, and I'm worried about the impact on our first responders. I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation," Obama told reporters.

"The election will take care of itself next week. Right now our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives."

Obama returned to Washington after cutting short a trip to Orlando, Florida, where he had been due to appear at a rally with former President Bill Clinton.

Romney said he was in touch with federal emergency management workers about the storm.

"The damage will probably be significant and, of course, a lot of people will be out of power for a long time," he said in Davenport, Iowa. "So hopefully your thoughts and prayers will join with mine and people across the country as you think about those folks that are in harm's way," he said, urging supporters to donate to the American Red Cross.

Romney canceled further events in Wisconsin on Monday night and in Iowa and Florida on Tuesday. Those states are out of Sandy's path, but the former Massachusetts governor does not want to be seen to be focusing only on the campaign in the midst of potential national disaster.

"Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harm's way," said Romney communications director Gail Gitcho.

SWING STATE BATTLE

Ohio is one of a handful of political swing states that will determine the winner of the November 6 election, and both candidates have spent many days campaigning there.

Obama has held a consistent, if narrow, lead in the state, and his advisers believe his support of the U.S. auto bailout will put him over the top there. Ohio is home to the nation's second largest auto industry.

But a Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll showed Romney ahead on Monday, getting support from 50 percent of likely voters compared to 48 percent who backed the president.

Clinton, who has been a popular surrogate for Obama, continued to hold events he was to have held with the president, both in Florida and in Ohio, where he joined Vice President Joe Biden on a campaign swing.

"I support Barack Obama because I think he's got a better jobs plan and a better jobs record, a better budget plan, a better education plan, a better healthcare plan than his opponent," Clinton told a cheering crowd in Youngstown, Ohio.

Romney's running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, campaigned in Florida, telling a crowd of 2,300 in Fernandina Beach that the Romney campaign would be turning its attention to helping people affected by the storm.

"We're staying in touch with regional leaders. We're offering assistance. We are collecting storm relief and supplies in our field offices in Virginia and Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, up and down the Eastern Seaboard," Ryan said.

Obama officials said the president's campaign schedule would be determined on a day-to-day basis. He scrapped another event scheduled for Tuesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and would remain at the White House, aides said.

Obama delivered pizzas to a local campaign office in Florida on Sunday night and told volunteers that the burden would increase for them because he would have to curtail his campaign activities there in coming days.

Florida, Wisconsin and Iowa also are critical swing states in the election, along with Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Sam Jacobs, and Lisa Lambert; Editing by Alistair Bell and Paul Simao)

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Comments (64)
KimberlyO wrote:
He lives in Wash. so of course he wants to be home with his family as a storm approaches. Just like him to ACT like he is doing something for the people. He’ll monitor this like he monitored Benghazi, watch out people, he’ll throw you under the waves of the storm to save his own ass! He’s all about appearing to do something all the while he does nothing but plan his next move in the crushing of our country…. you can bet he’s at the W.H. planning his next photo op to appear to be concerned what a joke.

Oct 29, 2012 8:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
phrazr wrote:
Never let ‘em see ya sweat – especially during a hurricane. It makes it look like you’re trying to hard, President Obama. George Bush understood that when he took a day off to play golf or something when Katrina hit. One cool customer that George Bush. Is it too soon to talk about cutting the FEMA budget? We don’t want to much big government interference with legitimate storms, do we?

Oct 29, 2012 9:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Carmi wrote:
KimberlyO – typical right wing nut mumbo jumbo. You people have been slandering this president for 4 years with all this weird conspiratorial bovine excrement, all the while trying to pass yourselves off as real Americans. Go away – far, far away.

Oct 29, 2012 9:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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