Obama trumps Romney under superstorm Sandy spotlight
  • by: Catherine Philp
  • From: The Times
Obama in disaster centre

President Barack Obama visits the Disaster Operation Centre of the Red Cross National Headquarter to discuss superstorm Sandy. Source: AP

President Obama has suspended a third day of campaigning to focus on the federal response to Superstorm Sandy, leaving his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, struggling for visibility before the election next week.

Mr Romney, who cancelled some campaign events on Monday “out of respect” for the storm’s victims, drew widespread criticism for turning a planned rally in Ohio yesterday into a storm relief event – complete with campaign videos and celebrity guests.

Supporters brought canned goods to the rally in Dayton to be be packed up and sent to storm survivors in New Jersey. “We won’t be able to solve all the problems,” Mr Romney said, “but you make the difference you can.”

The event underlined the problems that Mr Romney faces in the wake of a natural disaster that has put Mr Obama front and centre as the nation’s Commander-in-Chief. Mr Romney’s campaign announced that he would return to the stump in Florida today, with rallies in Tampa and Miami.

Mr Obama faces different uncertainties, including the possibility of a botched federal response for which he would be blamed. However, his actions have received lavish praise from one of Mr Romney’s staunchest backers.

Chris Christie, the Republican Governor of New Jersey widely tipped as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, said: “The President has been all over this. He deserves great credit. He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call if I needed anything and he absolutely means it.” Earlier he tweeted that the President’s response had been “outstanding”.

“It’s been very good working with the President and his Administration has been co-ordinating with us great – it’s been wonderful,” Mr Christie enthused. Such praise will have come as an extra blow to the Romney campaign and represents the kind of positive publicity that the Obama campaign millions could never buy.

What Superstorm Sandy’s eventual impact on the election will be remains uncertain. Of the swing states, the worst affected was Virginia, where thousands remain without power, mostly in the more liberal north encompassing the suburbs of Washington DC, on which Mr Obama is relying to help him to win the state. So far, Ohio remains largely unaffected, as do New Hampshire and North Carolina, the only other swing states in Sandy’s path.

But the storm has refocused attention on the gulf between the two candidates’ takes on the role of government. The New York Times published an editorial yesterday reminding readers of Mr Romney’s desire to break up the federal agency responsible for disaster management and devolve its powers to states. Mr Romney’s home-town newspaper, The Boston Globe, drew attention to his decision to veto both federal and state funding for defences for a flood-prone town in Massachusetts while he was governor of that state.

Both candidates, however, were able to agree on their support of the American Red Cross’s efforts, with Mr Romney’s website directing donors to make contributions to its crisis fund, while the Obama campaign sent out e-mails to its donor list soliciting aid for the organisation.

The Times 

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