As Hurricane Sandy continues to batter the East Coast with gusting winds, driving rain and an expected storm surge that could bring massive flooding, the so-called "superstorm" has also wreaked havoc on the presidential race — sidelining both campaigns and forcing poll closures in some cities. And all of this with just eight days to go until Election Day.
President Obama canceled a planned appearance at a rally in Orlando to return to Washington, D.C., and monitor the federal response to Sandy, CNN reported, and he delivered a statement on the hurricane this afternoon.
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"Obviously, everyone is aware at this point that this is going to be a big and powerful storm," Obama said. "Millions of people are going to be affected. The most important message I have for the public right now is please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate."
In response to a question from reporters, Obama said the election is not on his radar right now: "I am not worrying at this point about the impact on elections. ... The election will take care of itself next week. Right now, our number one priority is to make sure we are saving lives."
Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney, is sticking to his planned events in Ohio, Illinois and Iowa, but his spokesperson tells The Washington Post that he has been in touch with governors in states effected by the storm, like New Jersey's Chris Christie and Virginia's Bob McDonnell.
Both candidates have also posted links to the Red Cross' Sandy relief efforts on their respective Twitter accounts.
The storm has also thrown a wrench into early voting in several states. Polls were closed Monday in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and if the expected storm surge leads to massive power outages (by some estimates, as many as 60 million could be without power for days on end), Sandy might also affect voting on Election Day in key states like Virginia and Ohio.
As a top Democrat told Politico.com, "Anything that disrupts campaign/candidate schedules at this point in the race is significant. These events are important to the campaigns as a way of activating and energizing voters — even more important in early voting states — The earned media pieces can be made up in other ways (satellite interviews, etc.), but there is no substitute for candidate travel."