, WASHINGTON, Oct 30 – President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney looked to console the nation and show leadership on Tuesday after a devastating storm struck days ahead of election day.
Both candidates scaled back their White House campaigns as Hurricane Sandy carved a path of destruction across the US eastern seaboard on Monday, with Obama returning to the White House to lead the disaster response.
Now they will have to tip-toe back onto the campaign trail, resuming their closely-fought battle for the White House and showing leadership in a time of crisis without being seen as exploiting suffering for political ends.
Romney, who cancelled some campaign appearances on Monday, was set to attend a storm relief event on Tuesday in Ohio, a key battleground state, at the same place where a campaign event had been announced before the storm.
Obama can meanwhile harness the power of incumbency by directing relief efforts and addressing a storm-battered nation from its highest podium.
Coming so close to the neck-and-neck election on November 6, the historic storm threw closely planned campaign strategies into disarray as it threatened to dampen early voting, and drown out the candidates’ closing arguments.
“The great thing about America is, when we go through tough times like this, we all pull together,” Obama warned after meeting emergency officials at the White House and ditching events in battlegrounds Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
“The election will take care of itself next week. Right now, our number one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives,” he said.
Romney also cancelled some events Monday evening as a mark of sensitivity towards millions in the path of the storm, but went ahead with scheduled appearances in Iowa and Ohio.
He was also briefed by the deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Richard Serino, on the storm relief effort, aides said.
“The damage will probably be significant, and of course a lot of people will be out of power for a long time,” Romney said in Iowa Monday.
“Hopefully your thoughts and prayers will join with mine and people across the country as you think about those folks who are in harm’s way.”