Campaign on hold as Obama takes command

The president returns to Washington to oversee Sandy operations.

By The Fiscal Times Oct 30, 2012 4:22PM
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference from the White House /Larry Downing/Reuters By Eric PianinThe Fiscal Times logo

As Sandy began bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard early Monday, President Barack Obama canceled a campaign event in Orlando, Fla., and rushed back to Washington, D.C., to take command.

Hours later, after conferring with his cabinet and governors from the affected states, the president stood in the White House press room, declaring he was confident adequate resources and first responders were in place to deal with the unfolding crisis, while shrugging off a question about his decision to suspend campaigning just eight short days before the election.

In his dark suit and blue tie, Obama looked every bit the picture of a commander in chief taking charge of a crisis. "I am not worried at this point about the effect on the election, I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders. I’m worried about the impact on our economy and our transportation," Obama told reporters in his presidential tone. "The election will take care of itself next week."

Meanwhile, Republican challenger Mitt Romney did his best to voice concern for the 50 million Americans in the path of the storm, while announcing that he had canceled appearances in key battleground states to give Obama and others time to focus on the plight of those Americans "who are in harm’s way."

Romney takes a back seat
The former Massachusetts governor has been the center of attention for weeks since his powerful first debate performance catapulted Romney into a virtual tie or slight lead over Obama in the race for the White House. But for at least the next several days, Romney will be relegated to little more than a bit player, as Hurricane Sandy plows its way throughout the Northeast -- hammering the political battleground states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Hampshire.

At best, the violent, wide-ranging storm could have the effect of locking in place the status quo, which would mean a slight advantage for Romney in the popular vote and and a slight advantage for Obama in the all-important electoral vote contest.

RealClearPolitics’ average of national polls shows Romney leading Obama by the statistically insignificant margin of 47.6% to 46.7%, while Obama leads Romney in the race for electoral votes, 201 to 191, with 146 tossups. The winner needs at least 270 electoral votes. But the freak tropical storm and Nor’easter may have presented Obama with an extraordinary, last-minute opportunity to display his management skills and political acumen in hopes of winning over undecided voters or some who have grown disenchanted with his governing style and policies.

At the same time, by making emergency declaration in eight states under the hurricane watch, the president can shower federal aid and assistance on state officials, businesses and residents. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, sang the president’s praises in a press conference Monday, saying Obama had called to make sure the government and FEMA had provided everything necessary. Christie appreciated the proactive call and said FEMA was doing an excellent job.

Advantage, Obama

Joe Lockhart, a Democratic communications strategist and former press secretary to Bill Clinton, told MSNBC yesterday, “I think one of the things that happened in this race with the president’s poor performance in the first debate is that it elevated Mitt Romney, and the country saw them as almost equals. I think that what’s going on here is that it kind of underlines the idea that we have one president and he’s focused on his job.”

John Hudak, a presidential and governance scholar with Brookings Institution told The Fiscal Times, "If there is a serious disaster in the next few days anywhere on the Eastern seaboard, no one talks about Romney then. Romney is no part of any story, except, of course, I’m sure he’ll hold a press conference to speak on the tragedy, as anyone would do as the challenger. But all eyes are on the president."

Both campaigns appear terribly concerned about the optics of the next 48 hours, and how their candidates are perceived in their respective roles as president and challenger.  Romney was sharply criticized by Democrats for holding a press conference after the killings at the U.S. embassy in Libya, and while protests were still occurring throughout the Muslim world over an anti Islamic video made in the U.S. and politicizing the attacks. Romney accused the Obama administration of "sympathizing with those that waged the attacks" instead of immediately condemning the attacks. Monday, he made a low-key call for national unity while the eastern half of the country braced for the worst of the hurricane.

"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 [Paul] Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Fla.," campaign communication chief Gail Gitcho said in a statement. "We are also canceling all events currently scheduled for both Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan on Tuesday."

Eric Pianin is the Washington editor at The Fiscal Times. Subscribe to The Fiscal Times' FREE newsletter.

More from The Fiscal Times

Oct 30, 2012 7:44PM
All of a sudden after reading this article I feel the bile rising in my throat.
Oct 30, 2012 5:38PM
Dems are realing fishing for an issue.
Oct 30, 2012 8:36PM
Obama could not take charge of a Porta-John.
Oct 31, 2012 4:39AM
This comment brought to you by the letter 'O'

and the number 16 TRILLION.

As usual, the liberal media tries to protect Obama
by making something out of NOTHING.
Oct 31, 2012 12:48AM

Obama has just about broke the United States with what may well go down in world history as the most reckless fiscal policy in the history of the industrialized world!!!!


If he is reelected, his first act will be to install power outlets under all American bridges because that is where we will all be living under Obama. .


Oct 31, 2012 9:35AM
Obama takes command or politicizes the opportunity before election? Get your facts straight, Obama has never taken command of anything thus far. Look at Benghazi, foreign policy and 'fast and furious'.....deflect and deny.
Oct 30, 2012 5:37PM
We don't need FEMA. Individual states should budget for their own emergencies.
Oct 31, 2012 12:34AM
I thought the global king could merely raise his staff and calm the angry seas.
Oct 31, 2012 6:44AM
Where was Curious George when Bengazi was attacked.....good riddance to this pathetic disaster...inept, corrupt, narcisstic, racist ****
Oct 31, 2012 9:40AM
What a chameleon this guy is.  Now all of a sudden he's the commander in the blue suit.  Didn't hear a thing from him throughout the last three major storms we had, but now all of a suddent he's right there.  For all of his term, he rarely wore a suit, dressed down like some low level apathetic person and spent more time talking about nothing and plopping down on talk show couches.  If he thinks that my opinion of him has changed in any way, he's wrong.  I don't have that short of a memory to not still feel all the negative energy he put into our society so my vote is still for Romney
Oct 31, 2012 2:11PM

Of course every idiot republican who has internet has some stupid remark about the Hurricane and the president. Wonder if you mental midgets had that hurricane pick up your double wide trailer and turn it into a twelve pack of canned tuna would you be singing the same song? We can make politics out of anything when it's expedient. Think about what would happen if you had disaster relief privatized? You morons would be filtering your urine through a coffee filter trying to make tea because you had to wait for blackwater to approve your credit application to save your arz. your candidate wants you sheep to believe the states can do it better, if thats the case you had 8 years to make that a reality? Plus, If this was such a good idea why hasn't it already been done. I hope it happens so  when disaster strikes you peni$ heads will have to wear grandma's panties like swim trunks and eat your fingernails for lunch. Good luch retardicans

Oct 31, 2012 10:07AM
      I originally posted this on September 28, 2012   How prophetic.
Obama has hired the best pollsters available and they have told him that if nothing unforeseen and earth shaking happens he has lost.  You can get all emotional and attack me but the liberal media knows this as well and consequently are using anything imaginable to try and help him. One thing you learn in life as a business person is remain centered.  Critical thinking is your friend!
Oct 31, 2012 10:30PM
Romney, while doing his debates with other GOP hopefull for president was questioned if he will keep funding FEMA. His reply was" I will not keep funding FEMA, as the work of distress assistance in the event of any disaster could be done by the States with no problem, but I will consider Privatize FEMA's work to a supplier!" Today, October 31,2012, after the worse storm we have seen in our life time, The FLIPP-FLOPPER Romney said " When I become president I will fully fund FEMA as distress assistance, the States along could not handle the repair, and reconstruction burden! And this guy Romney, still wants to be president of our country! What will he will change his mind tomorrow? Bomb IRAN, kill Medicare, Privatized Social Security. Vote Obama for president as soon as you can dear citizen!
Nov 6, 2012 6:26PM
Still dont know why any average American would support Myth Robme he is poison for this country is not going to create any more jobs for you at all just going to make rich people richer i do not trust this person or any of his allies vote today a straight democratic ticket.If you are an American vote for Obama/Biden 2012.
Nov 2, 2012 3:59PM
and after reading some of these comments, the bile is also rising......Tuesday can't come soon enough, put an end to this endless name calling, people bashing, predictions that sound like a weather man....

What and Who will be....will be.....and WE will go on, just like we have for years and years.
Hopefully after this is all done, some of these comments will be filled with a little less hate.....we can always dream can't we :)

Everyone........whether your R or D.... U or Non-U........W or B........S or G.........have a wonderful weekend!

Oct 31, 2012 10:25PM
WHERE ROMNEY STAND? LET'S SEE , I ASK MANY OF MY ASSOCIATES IF THEY KNOW WHAT YOUR PRESIDENTAL POLICIES ARE ABOUT, BUT THEY COULD NOT MENTIONED A SINGLE ONE, AND STILL IN SEVEN DAYS YOU ARE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, WHAT A JOKE! The big news today Oct 13, 2012, is that another Company in Illinois making sensors (SENSATA), for automobiles was closed a week ago, all personnel terminated ( FIRED), with no job because the Company presently owned by Bain Corporation decided to make a larger profit by outsourcing the Company! All equipment and assembly of sensors work is now quickly outsourced to China! This is the sickness that has been killing us, our economy, and our working force for the last fourteen years , as you know it all began with Bush, Mitt Romney and the Bain Corporation, and many other Large Corporations in the USA. We better stop outsourcing our work to other countries now or we will die as a powerful country! I can't believe we still have the courage to blame Obama for the problems of lack of jobs in our USA for the last four years. Just give the citizens a brake, and stop making more lies of why the economy does not make good progress, to include the perversity of Congress a snake nest of Tea Party, and Republican members opposing every Jobs Bills that Obama proposes.You need to know that from 2000 to 2008,the Bush years, 8.3 million service, and assembly jobs have been outsource to China, India, and Mexico! Mitt, you are a lost cause; you change your mind every time you get out of bed. You are very dangerous to the American people because we do not know for sure what you are going to do if accidentally you become president, with your liar side kick Ryan, you will take many position dealing in foreign policy, and will prove to be a killer for us, like Iraq and Afghanistan nightmare. Citizens wake up, vote for Obama president on November 6, 2012 or earlier!
Oct 31, 2012 12:50PM
Grow dependency , grow the democrat base. 13 million ( and counting) added in 1 term.
Oct 31, 2012 12:33PM
So we are to praise Obama for merely doing his job?   How about mentioning that Romney, his wife and campaign have been heavily involved in charity to aid those affected?  Guess that little tidbit escaped the media desperately trying to reelect Obama.
Nov 1, 2012 12:14PM
Romney senate endorsee.......

"Rape babies are part of God's plan" ......

Oct 31, 2012 12:55PM
Obumble's couldn't run a lemonade stand without taxpayers funding it. He's a joke.
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