Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the presidential campaign on Monday: President Obama and Mitt Romney were canceling events in key battleground states as the storm bore down on the Mid-Atlantic region.
Obama had announced over the weekend that he was scrapping appearances on Monday in Ohio and today in Colorado so he could turn his attention to dealing with the federal response to the storm. He had hoped to squeeze in a campaign visit Monday in Orlando.
But by early Monday, as the storm gained intensity, the White House announced the president was canceling his Florida event and returning to Washington to huddle with Federal Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security officials, as well as other top advisers.
"I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election," Obama said, responding to reporters' questions at the White House. "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. The election will take care of itself next week."
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Vice President Biden, who campaigned with former president Bill Clinton in Ohio on Monday, also announced that he was canceling two events today in Ohio and a third event in Pennsylvania on Thursday.
Romney held a rally in Avon Lake, Ohio, on Monday, but the campaign announced that the former Massachusetts governor and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, had decided to cancel a pair of evening campaign events that had been scheduled for Florida on Monday evening and that neither would campaign today as planned.
Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director, said the events were canceled "out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy." She said 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."
Earlier, Romney scrapped a Virginia campaign stop scheduled for Sunday and announced today's New Hampshire event would be scrubbed.
From the podium in Avon Lake, Romney encouraged people to pray for those in the path of the storm.
"We've faced these kinds of challenges before," he said. "This looks like another time when we need to come together all across the country, even if you are in Ohio, and make sure we give of our support to the people who need it." In a message sent out Sunday, Romney said: "I'm never prouder of America than when I see how we pull together in a crisis. There's nothing we can't handle when we stand together."
Romney's campaign announced grass-roots field offices in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia are collecting supplies to help people affected by the storm.
Obama spoke with governors in the path of Hurricane Sandy on Monday and spent part of his day in the Situation Room at the White House being briefed by Cabinet officials on the storm's impact. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the GOP nominee had been in contact with governors Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey, two of his staunchest allies, to discuss storm preparations.
Both the Obama and Romney campaigns encouraged people to support relief efforts by the Red Cross and for those in harm's way to pay heed to local authorities and emergency responders. The Obama and Romney campaigns also announced that they've temporarily halted sending fundraising e-mails to supporters in areas in the path of Hurricane Sandy.
Both campaigns appeared to be taking a moment-by-moment approach as they faced the pressures of winning votes while showing sensitivity to Americans likely to be affected by the storm.
Just before Romney took the stage at his Ohio rally on Monday, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod demurred when asked during a conference call with reporters whether Romney should have canceled the event.
"I am not going to tell Gov. Romney what to do, and frankly, I don't think he's going to ask for my opinion either," Axelrod said. "As far as the president goes, he has real responsibilities and those responsibilities come first."
Kucinich reported from Ohio