* Obama: not worried about storm's impact on election
* Romney campaigns in Iowa before canceling events
* Candidates wary of seeming too political during storm
By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON/DAVENPORT, Iowa, Oct 29 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
"The election will take care of itself next week. Right now
our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving
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 Nov. 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