Sandy’s Campaign Brake: President’s `Responsibilities’ First

Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One on Oct. 29, 2012 upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

President Barack Obama, who scuttled campaign plans in Florida today to return to Washington, plans a 12:45 pm EDT statement about Hurricane Sandy, a wide-ranging storm aiming for a mid-Atlantic landfall overnight.

Republican Mitt Romney, campaigning in Ohio, also has called off an appearance in Wisconsin today and all of his and running mate Paul Ryan’s planned campaign stops tonight and tomorrow in Iowa, Ohio and Florida.

While both forfeit a couple of campaign days one week from Election Day, the president has an incumbent’s advantage of being presidential. The president’s duties come first, as senior political adviser David Axelrod put it today.

“He has real responsibilities and those responsibilities come first,” Axelrod said. “We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time, but that’s as it has to be and we’ll try to make it up on the back end.”

“It’s not a matter of optics, it’s a matter of responsibility,” Axelrod said, adding: ”I don’t want to be ambiguous about this at all, we’re winning this race.”

Romney communications director Gail Gitcho announced the Republican’s cancellations after the White House scheduled a noon-hour statement by the president, monitoring storm preparations and planned recovery efforts after an expected landfall along the coast of New Jersey.

“Out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy, we are canceling tonight’s events with Gov. Romney in Wisconsin and Congressman Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida,” she said. “We are also canceling all events currently schedule for both Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan on Tuesday. ”

“Gov. Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way,” Gitcho said.

For the record, they say they’re winning, too.

Julianna Goldman and Lisa Lerer contributed. 

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