Tags: obama | romney | hurricane | sandy

Obama, Romney Leverage Storm for Last-Minute Votes

Tuesday, 30 Oct 2012 10:06 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A week before Election Day, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are dancing perhaps the most delicate of political dances: campaigning in the wake of a natural disaster that is estimated to cause as much as $50 billion in damages.

Both candidates have suspended their campaigns, although both camps made sure to capture headlines Monday that subtly projected images of leadership -- Obama remained at the White House to supervise recovery efforts from Superstorm Sandy and Romney sponsoring a storm-relief effort in the critical swing state of Ohio.

Neither candidate took on the other, but the campaign truce was likely to be short-lived.

Urgent Poll: One Week Until Election Day. Obama or Romney?

"When the nation's largest city and even its capital are endangered, when so many people are in peril and face deprivation, it's hard to get back to arguing over taxes," Douglas Brinkley, the historian and presidential biographer, told Fox News.

Sandy roared into the New York-New Jersey area on Sunday, cutting a wide swath across the Northeast. At least 40 deaths have been reported – and more than 8.1 million homes lost power and thousands businesses and homes experienced hurricane damage. Over 15,000 flights across the Northeast and the world were cancelled.

Hardest hit were New York City and New Jersey.

“Our state woke up today to absolute devastation,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “There are no words to describe what’s been New Jersey’s experience over the last 24 hours, and what we’ll have to contend with over the coming days, weeks and months.”

Obama offered Christie federal assistance for his storm-ravaged state, bringing praise from the GOP governor and strong Romney backer. Obama should get credit for expediting federal aid to the state, he said.

“Cooperation from the president has been outstanding," Christie told CBS on Tuesday, adding that he had spoken to the president three times, even during a midnight call. "He deserves great credit."

Christie and Obama are to tour the state on Wednesday, guaranteeing the president national headlines even as his campaign is on hold.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, spurned the president’s offer to visit the storm-ravaged city telling him that there was too much to do to return the city to working order.

"What I pointed out to him is that we'd love to have him, but we've got lots of things to do," Bloomberg said.

Obama secured images of leadership and control Tuesday, doing so by making just a short trek from the White House to a Red Cross shelter in the city and holding a press conference.

Urgent Poll: One Week Until Election Day. Obama or Romney?

“We certainly feel profoundly for all the families whose lives have been upended. ... The most important message I have for them is that America's with you," Obama said. “We are standing behind you. And we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet."

At the relief effort in Ohio, Romney said: “We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all of the suffering going on,” Romney said, standing on an equipment box inside a gymnasium in Kettering, Ohio, according to Fox. “I appreciate what you have done.”

Before helping to collect food and other staples, Romney also talked about efforts in Massachusetts when he was governor to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Several hundred people were at the Ohio event, many of whom came with grocery bags of canned goods and other items to be shipped to the East Coast.

Even as the two contenders took a detour, surrogates took to the campaign trail. Former President Bill Clinton politicked for Obama in Ohio on Monday and in Colorado on Tuesday as part of a tour through swing states and several Democratic strongholds.

In Ohio, Clinton recounted to supporters a conversation he had with Obama regarding Sandy’s menacing presence: “‘I got to go back right now. This storm's getting out of hand. I got to handle it,'" Obama told Clinton, The Atlantic reports. “And I said, ‘Mr. President, that is the right call.'"

The pair was to appear together in Florida, The Atlantic reports.

Romney, for his part, will hold a rally on Wednesday in Florida.

His vice presidential running mate, Sen. Paul Ryan, will make two stops in his home state of Wisconsin to thank volunteers for delivering or collecting items for storm victims, Fox reports.

Even Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, will attend events in Wisconsin and in Iowa this week.

Meanwhile, the candidates continued pummeling each other with TV ads, as neither campaign pulled ads in swing states.

Urgent Poll: One Week Until Election Day. Obama or Romney?

On Monday, the Obama campaign released a new attack ad in Ohio saying that Romney was lying in his claim that Chrysler was outsourcing jobs to China, Politico reports. Romney’s campaign hit back the next day with a spot called “Crushed By Your Policies.”

And, some conservatives have even claimed that the Obama campaign hopes that the hurricane’s aftermath will postpone the election.

Radio show host Rush Limbaugh, for instance, charged on Tuesday that left-wing media outlets were pushing for Obama to delay the election — something he said the president had no authority to do.

“The president has no power whatsoever to do this,” Limbaugh said on his radio program. “The president cannot do it. The fact that so many people want the president to is alarming, because it indicates how many people would be comfortable with that kind of autocratic, totalitarian power.”

This all comes as national polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. The race has even placed such longstanding blue states as Maine, whose rules award as many as four electoral votes to the winner, in play.

Obama won Maine in 2008, and the Romney campaign is buying up television time and is increasing its phone-calling and door-knocking efforts.

Obama leads Romney by 47 to 46 percent, according to the latest national Reuters/Ipsos Daily Tracking Poll, but 53 percent of all registered voters told pollsters that Obama would win the election.

Most of the campaigns' attention has been focused on eight or nine states, but Romney and his allies have bought up new advertising time in three others – Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan – to try to expand the playing field.

Urgent Poll: One Week Until Election Day. Obama or Romney?

The Romney campaign said the move was a sign of momentum.

"If the other side was on the move, they would be expanding into states that John McCain won in 2008; instead, they're fighting to maintain turf in traditionally Democratic states," Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, told Reuters.

But the Obama campaign saw the expansion differently, with Obama campaign manager Jim Messina telling Reuters that the move was “a decision made out of weakness, not strength."

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