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Days Before Election, Sandy Brings A Twist


President Obama canceled his campaign events that were scheduled for today in Colorado and Wisconsin. He's staying in Washington to oversee the federal response to what is now described as a post-tropical storm, Sandy. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has also scaled back his events.

Now, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, this gigantic storm has introduced a new and unpredictable element into the presidential race just one week before Election Day.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: If there's any silver lining in this epic storm for President Obama, it's the opportunity only an incumbent has: to take control, show compassion, and demonstrate leadership as commander-in-chief.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The great thing about America is when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together. We look out for our friends. We look out for our neighbors, and, you know, we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we respond appropriately.

HORSLEY: The downside for Mr. Obama is so long as he's stuck in Washington overseeing the storm response, he's not out campaigning, energizing supporters or getting out the vote. The president told reporters at the White House yesterday, for now he's focused on the people in Sandy's path, adding the election will take care of itself next week. Mr. Obama cautioned the effects of the slow-moving storm could linger for days.


OBAMA: Transportation is going to be tied up for a long time. And probably the most significant impact for a lot of people, in addition to flooding, is going to be getting power back on.

HORSLEY: Among other things, that could disrupt the early voting Mr. Obama's been trying to encourage. It's not clear when the president will resume campaigning. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki says the campaign's making those decisions day by day.

JEN PSAKI: This is a case where politics takes a backseat. And the president's role is governing the country and doing what he was elected to do four years ago, which is to make sure people have the resources and the information they need. That will be his focus as long as it's needed.

HORSLEY: Even without the president to headline rallies, the campaign continues. Bill Clinton spoke for Mr. Obama yesterday in Florida and Ohio. The former president is set to campaign in seven states in the coming days.


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I say, let's give the job to the man who's done the job, so he can finish the job.

HORSLEY: Republican Mitt Romney also suspended campaign rallies today, although he is holding a hurricane relief drive in - where else? Ohio.


MITT ROMNEY: And so I'd like to ask you, who are here today, to think about making a contribution to the Red Cross or to another relief agency to be of help if you possibly can in any way you can imagine to help those that are in harm's way.

HORSLEY: Both candidates are appealing for Red Cross donations, and both have stopped sending their own fundraising emails to residents in the path of the storm. Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.