— WASHINGTON (AP) — Hurricane Sandy overran White House politicking Monday, with President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney calling off campaign rallies as the strengthening storm bore down on the East Coast.
With eight days before Election Day, neither candidate could afford to totally shut down operations. The political barbs continued on the airways and between aides trying to show the upper hand in a race as tight as ever.
Obama, trying to show effective leadership in a time of impending crisis across some of the country's biggest population centers, met with federal officials monitoring the storm from a video hook-up and then addressed the country from the White House. He repeated that his administration is ready to help respond to the "big and powerful storm" and warned the consequences could be deadly if people don't follow instructions from emergency officials.
The president attempted to appear above the political fray, dismissing any notion that he's thinking about the campaign, in response to a shouted question.
"The election will take care of itself next week," he said, pivoting back to the microphone to answer after turning to leave. "Right now, our number one priority is to make sure we are saving lives, that our search and rescue teams are going to be in place, that people are going to get the food, the water, the shelter they need in case of emergency and that we respond as quickly as possible to get the economy back on track."
Romney didn't have official duties to tend to. But, mindful of the optics of politicking while millions of Americans faced grave hardships, the Republican nominee followed suit by cancelling all events that he and running mate Paul Ryan had scheduled for Monday night and Tuesday.