(Foto: Carolyn Kaster/AP)
With nine days to the election and the race locked in a dead heat, historic Hurricane Sandy has forced President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney to abruptly change the course of their campaigns and prepare for a potentially devastating storm.
Obama, who flew out of Washington on Sunday night determined to keep a foothold on the campaign trail, cancelled his appearance at a planned morning rally here (in Orlando) with former President Bill Clinton to return home to monitor the federal government’s response to the storm.
“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. Officials said they were concerned about deteriorating conditions that could prevent Air Force One from landing.
(...) Obama had also planned to continue today to Youngstown, Ohio, and to northern Virginia, but both events were previously cancelled.
(...) Obama will spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Washington monitoring the storm and directing federal resources as needed. He is expected to venture to Green Bay, Wis., on Tuesday; Cincinnati and Akron, Ohio, on Wednesday; and then do a muti-state blitz to round out the week. All of the travel plans are contingent on Sandy.
(...) Romney, meanwhile, plans to keep his campaign at full throttle in three swing states today with stops in Avon Lake, Ohio; Davenport, Iowa; and West Allis, Wis.
His team on Sunday loaded storm-relief supplies onto the Romney campaign bus in Virginia, preparing for deliveries to local storm-relief centers after Sandy hits.
(...) Obama campaign officials at the Chicago headquarters and in key states in the storm’s path told ABC News that while some local canvassing events may be postponed or cancelled over the next few days, they are confident that the situation will not affect early voting or their get-out-the-vote efforts.
Privately, aides in both campaigns stressed that many key states — Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin — won’t bear the brunt of the storm, if they face any impact at all. In Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, the only early voting is by absentee (mail), so aides said there were no concerns about getting people to polls.
In Virginia, one official noted, the State Board of Elections is now allowing voters who may be affected by the storm to vote absentee in-person.