WASHINGTON, D.C.—The balancing act between campaigning and dealing with a natural disaster the week before a presidential election is a vexing one, considering there’s no precedent for it. In the latest example of juggling both, President Obama made a last-minute decision this morning to fly back to the White House and forgo the one campaign stop he kept on his schedule for today.
After initially announcing that he would skip his Ohio stop later today but still attend a campaign event in Orlando, Fla., a key spot in an important battleground state, the president flew to Orlando Sunday night to be in place for this morning’s event.
There was a change of heart this morning: “Due to deteriorating weather in the Washington area, the President will no longer attend today’s campaign event in Orlando,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. “The President will return to Washington to monitor the preparations for and response to Hurricane Sandy.”
Meantime, Vice President Joe Biden will step in for the president at his previously scheduled Youngstown, Ohio rally with former President Bill Clinton. Mitt Romney will keep his campaign schedule, visiting Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin today. His running mate Paul Ryan is in Florida for the day.
== Campaigns shift resources for Hurricane Sandy ==
Nine days before Election Day, Hurricane Sandy is barreling toward the east coast and causing the presidential campaigns to alter their schedules. Over the weekend, the Romney campaign cancelled campaign events in Virginia and instead moved their candidate to events in Ohio. However, they are still mobilizing volunteers in the Old Dominion State. Today at their Arlington headquarters, they are loading storm necessities onto their campaign bus. They plan to distribute water and other kinds of emergency storm relief supplies throughout the state over the next few days at local relief centers.
“Governor Romney’s concern is the safety and well being of those in the path of this storm, not political considerations,” Romney spokeswoman Sarah Pompei wrote in an email.
The campaign is taking similar precautions in New Hampshire, where Ann Romney was supposed to be on Monday. They have cancelled that visit and are instead using another campaign bus to help with relief there.
The Obama campaign has also cancelled events as Sandy approaches. President Obama was briefed by FEMA in Washington, D.C., today and labeled it a “serious and big storm.”
Early and absentee voting has been a central focus of both campaigns. In Virginia, it was announced yesterday that the State Board of Elections is now allowing voters who may be affected by the storm to vote absentee in-person, and the Obama campaign is working to spread encourage anyone who qualifies to take advantage of the opportunity. “In spite of the weather, our volunteers in Hampton Roads knocked on thousands more doors this Saturday than last Saturday,” an Obama campaign aide in Virginia wrote to CBS News.
“The campaign is closely monitoring the storm and will take all necessary precautions to make sure our staff and volunteers are safe,” says OFA spokesperson Marianne P. von Nordeck. “ Where it’s safe to do so, our historic grassroots organization is running at full speed in Eastern battleground states to persuade undecided voters and get our supporters out to the polls between now and Election Day.”
Jill Biden was supposed to appear in North Carolina and Pennsylvania on today and tomorrow, but those trips were scrapped in order to ensure that all local law enforcement could focus on their own tasks at hand. Beau Biden, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, who is Delaware’s attorney general, abandoned plans to campaign with his father in Virginia at the last minute last night. Biden told those in attendance: “He was sitting in Air Force Two as we were about to take off, and... he called and said ‘Dad, the governor has just called up the National Guard. I’m going home.’”
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley, an Obama supporter, has cancelled early voting throughout the state on Monday. And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, who’s campaigning on behalf of Romney, has cancelled a trip to the west coast in order to oversee his state’s response to the storm.