— With only one week left before the U.S. presidential election, both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney are moving cautiously on the campaign trail in the wake of the powerful storm known as Sandy that slammed into the East Coast.
President Obama remained focused on the government response to Sandy as he visited Red Cross headquarters in Washington.
Obama expressed concern and promised support for those affected by the storm.
“The most important message I have for them is that America is with you," he said. "We are standing behind you and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.”
The president canceled a campaign rally scheduled for Wednesday in Ohio to focus on the ongoing relief efforts in the wake of the storm along the East Coast.
Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has decided to resume his campaign Wednesday with an appearance in Florida.
Romney canceled his regular campaign schedule Tuesday out of deference to those dealing with the aftermath of Sandy Romney briefly spoke to volunteers helping to collect food donations in Ohio.
“We’ve got people right now that are having some hard times because of this terrible hurricane and the storm that followed it and your generosity will make a difference," he said. "So I want to thank you.”
President Obama did get some unexpected praise from the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie.
Governor Christie has been a strong critic of the president’s record and has campaigned around the country for Mr. Romney. But Christie praised the president’s handling of the storm and his quick approval of federal disaster assistance in several interviews, including one with ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ program.
“I have to say the administration, the president himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far," he said. "We have a great partnership with them and I want to thank the president personally for his personal attention to this.”
The White House announced that Governor Christie will join the president Wednesday in viewing some of the damage along the hard-hit New Jersey coast.
The focus on Sandy has been a major distraction for the presidential campaign with only days left before Election Day next Tuesday. Some analysts are already describing the storm as a classic ‘October Surprise,’ an unexpected event late in a presidential campaign that could affect the outcome. But at this point, most analysts say it is too early to know what impact the storm will have on this year’s election.
The latest polls continue to show the race is close, something Obama campaign manager Jim Messina says he expected all along.
“We are in the close race we have always prepared for over the last two years and what’s remarkable is how consistent this race has been with small but important leads for the president in key states," he said.
Romney campaign officials continue to insist their candidate is gaining ground in some of the key swing states where the outcome of the race remains in doubt.
Brookings Institution expert Phil Wallach says both candidates will focus on two main goals in the final days of the campaign-winning over undecided voters and making sure their committed supporters get out and vote.
“We have to remember that it is as much about exciting partisan bases as it is about persuading undecided voters,” he said.
Two new national polls show the race to be a dead heat and both campaigns are focusing most of their energy in the final week in nine so-called battleground states where polls show both candidates have a chance of winning.
Scenes from the Campaign Trail