CELINA, Ohio (AP):
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney frantically sought to close the deal with voters with precious few days left in an incredibly close race as this year's October surprise - an unprecedented storm menacing the East Coast - wreaked havoc on their best-laid plans.
Ever mindful of his narrow path to the requisite 270 electoral votes, Romney looked to expand his map, weighing an intensified effort in traditionally left-leaning Minnesota. Obama sought to defend historically Democratic turf as the race tightened heading into the final week.
Wary of being seen as putting their political pursuits ahead of public safety, the two White House hopefuls reshuffled their campaign plans as the storm approached. Both candidates were loath to forfeit face time with voters in battleground states like Virginia, which is likely to be afflicted when Hurricane Sandy, a winter storm and a cold front collide to form a freak hybrid storm.
"The storm will throw havoc into the race," said Senator Mark Warner, (Democrat -
STATE OF EMERGENCY
Obama, preparing to depart for Florida a day early to beat the storm, followed up a morning church service with his daughters with a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's headquarters, where the president was briefed before speaking by phone to governors and mayors in affected states. Hours before rainfall was expected to begin, Obama declared a state of emergency in Maryland, freeing up federal funds to aid local response efforts.
"Anything they need, we will be there," Obama said. "And we are going to cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules. We want to make sure that we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we've got the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system."
An opportunity for Obama to demonstrate steady leadership in the face of a crisis was offset by the risk that the federal government, as in past emergencies, could be faulted for an ineffective response, with the president left to take the fall.
Obama cancelled campaign stops today in Virginia and tomorrow in Colorado to monitor the storm, but planned to go forward with other events today in Florida and Ohio, with Clinton at his side. He planned to return to Ohio on Wednesday with stops in Cincinnati and Akron, followed by a Thursday swing through Springfield, Ohio; Boulder, Colorado and Las Vegas.
CHIPPING OBAMA'S LEAD
Romney nixed three stops in up-for-grabs Virginia yesterday, opting instead to campaign with running mate Paul Ryan in Ohio before heading today to Wisconsin, where the former Massachusetts governor has chipped away at Obama's lead.
Also vexing to Obama and Romney was the prospect that bad weather could hinder early voting and get-out-the-vote efforts, key components for both campaigns in the waning days of the campaign.