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President Barack Obama makes a point during remarks in the White House Briefing Room in Washington, Monday.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 10/30/2012
WASHINGTON--Hurricane Sandy overran White House politicking Monday, with President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney calling off campaign rallies as the strengthening storm bore down on the East Coast.
With eight days to go before Election Day, Nov. 6, neither candidate could afford to totally shut down operations. The political barbs continued in campaign ads and between aides trying to show the upper hand in a race as tight as ever.
Obama, trying to show effective leadership in a time of impending crisis across some of the country's biggest population centers, met with federal officials monitoring the storm from a video hook-up and then addressed the country from the White House. He repeated that his administration is ready to help respond to and warned that the consequences could be deadly if people don't follow instructions. "The great thing about America is that when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together," Obama said in a six-minute appearance.
The president turned aside a shouted question about the storm's impact on the campaign, saying safety was his top priority.
"The election will take care of itself next week," he said, pivoting back to the microphone to answer after having turned to leave. "Right now, our No. 1 priority is to make sure we are saving lives, that our search and rescue teams are going to be in place, that people are going to get the food, the water, the shelter they need in case of emergency and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track."
Romney didn't have official duties to allow him to play a commanding role, and his Boston-based campaign staff debated whether to keep him on the trail away from the storm's path. But they were mindful of the optics of politicking while millions of people faced grave hardships and canceled events Romney and running mate Paul Ryan had scheduled for Monday night and Tuesday.
"Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury," Romney said at a stop in Ohio. He also planned to stop in swing state Iowa before standing down as the storm was predicted to make landfall Monday night.
Romney urged the Ohio crowd to make a contribution to the Red Cross or other relief agency "in any way you can imagine to help those in harm's way."
In Virginia, Senate candidates George Allen and Tim Kaine both suspended all campaign appearances for Monday; Kaine canceled his for Tuesday as well.
"As a former governor who's dealt with emergency situations, Governor Kaine is urging everyone to prepare and exercise caution," said an email from the Kaine campaign.
A tweet from the Allen campaign said he was canceling Monday events "to encourage Virginians to stay safe and off the roads."