Sandy, Safety: Campaign Consensus

Photograph by Rex Features via AP Images

Richard Serino, Deputy Administrator, FEMA, left, and President Barack Obama, during a news conference on Hurricane Sandy at FEMA Headquarters, in Washington, D.C.

Updated at 7:20 am EDT

Sandy has taken a toll on the campaign one week and a day from Election Day:

No Ohio for President Barack Obama today. No more Florida either.

No New Hampshire for Mitt Romney on Tuesday.

This, then, is the October surprise. 

The president, who flew to Florida last night for a reception by Puerto Rican community leaders at the airport, had planned a morning rally today at the University of Central Florida. He already had cancelled an Ohio and Virginia trip and would return to Washington by early afternoon.

But the president called off the Orlando campus rally early today to return to the capital, where sporadic power outages already are affecting the area.

“Obviously my first priority has to be to make sure that everything is in place to help families and to prepare,” Obama said last night, stopping with pizzas at a campaign field office — one of his 100 in the Sunshine State — in the Orlando area. “Obviously Florida is going to be critical in this election….Florida is tight,” he said. “It’s going to be a close race. Whover is able to get their voters out is going to win this election.”

The president already had declared an emergency for the District of Columbia, and added some mid-Atlantic states to the list today, with most federal agencies and area schools shut down, in preparation for the slow-moving and widespread storm called Sandy moving in from the Atlantic Ocean tonight.

Obama dropped in at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington on Sunday.

Sandy, he said, is a “serious and big storm.”

He urged anyone affected by a wide storm threatening landfall somewhere north of Washington on Tuesday “to take this very seriously.”

“We don’t yet know where it’s gonna hit, where we’re going to see the biggest impacts,” he said, “and that’s exactly why it’s so important for us to respond big and respond fast as local information starts coming in.”

Romney,  who  hasn’t campaigned in New Hampshire in two months, called off his planned Tuesday appearance there.

“I know some people are nervous about a storm about to hit the coast and our thoughts and prayers are with people in harm’s way,” Romney told voters in Findlay, Ohio, on Sunday. He was in Ohio because he had called off a day of campaigning in coastal Virginia due to the approaching storm.

Any attempted calculus of the political costs or benefits of such a storm — a day or two of campaigning lost, versus the standing up of the commander-in-chief in a natural disaster — is probably a callous exercise.

Safety, the two presidential nominees agreed today, is the first order of business.

Hans Nichols and Lisa Lerer contributed. 


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