(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- With eight days to the election and the race locked in a dead heat, Hurricane Sandy has forced President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney to abruptly change the course of their campaigns and prepare their response to a potentially devastating storm.
Obama, who flew out of Washington, D.C., Sunday night ahead of Sandy, cancelled his appearance at a planned Monday morning rally in Orlando, Fla., with former President Bill Clinton to return home to monitor the federal government’s response to the storm.
“Due to deteriorating weather in the Washington area, the president will no longer attend today’s campaign event in Orlando,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. Officials said they were concerned about deteriorating conditions that could prevent Air Force One from landing.
Romney, meanwhile, plans to keep his campaign at full throttle in three swing states on Monday, with stops in Avon Lake, Ohio; Davenport, Iowa; and West Allis, Wis.
His team on Sunday loaded storm-relief supplies onto the Romney campaign bus in Virginia, preparing for deliveries to local storm-relief centers after Sandy hits.
“I know that right now some people in the country are a little nervous about a storm about to hit the coast,” Romney said at an Ohio rally on Sunday. “And our thoughts and prayers are with the people who will find themselves in harm’s way.”
The Obama and Romney campaigns have cancelled or changed 20 events between them due to the storm and safety concerns, sacrificing critical face-time with voters in the home stretch. Obama had also planned to continue on Monday to Youngstown, Ohio, and to northern Virginia, but both events were previously cancelled.
Both campaigns have also halted fundraising e-mails in states in the storm’s path.
This “means that, you know, that’s going to be putting a little bit more burden on folks in the field, because I’m not going to be able to campaign quite as much over the next couple of days,” Obama told Florida volunteers during a visit Sunday night to a field office in Orlando.
Obama will spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Washington, D.C., monitoring the storm and directing federal resources as needed. He is expected to venture to Cincinnati and Akron, Ohio, on Wednesday, and then do a muti-state blitz to round out the week. All of the travel plans are contingent on Sandy.
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