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Barack Obama Puts Campaign on Hold; Mitt Romney Schedules ‘Storm Relief Events’

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

President Barack Obama will stay in Washington, D.C., at least through Wednesday, suspending his re-election campaigning to keep an eye on recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy.

GOP challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, plan appearances that their campaign called “storm relief events” in Ohio and Wisconsin, with formal campaigning to resume on Wednesday. The Republicans scheduled their appearances in states with electoral votes up for grabs in Tuesday’s election.

Obama is staying off the campaign trail longer. The White House said this morning that Obama would cancel planned appearances in the battleground state of Ohio on Wednesday.

As an incumbent ultimately responsible for the federal response to the unprecedented storm, Obama faces potential criticism at a crucial time should that response be viewed as ineffective.

Obama met via video conference today with top officials from an array of federal departments and agencies who gave him an update on conditions.

“The President told his team that their top priority is to make sure all available resources are being provided to state and local responders as quickly as possible and directed them to identify and resolve any potential bottlenecks or shortfalls should they arise,” the White House said in a statement.

Lawmakers from affected areas also canceled campaign plans and rearranged their schedules to tour the storm damage.

“It’s probably as devastating a hit as Long Island has ever taken,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN, praising the resolve of local residents and leaders.

Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer scrapped plans to speak at a breakfast Wednesday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. The New York lawmaker will continue to monitor response and recovery efforts in his state.

The New York region’s transportation infrastructure was badly damaged Monday night by the storm and the surge of seawater it created. Utility companies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said it may take more than a week to restore electric service to customers.

Cory Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., who has drawn praise for his personal involvement in disaster response efforts, said that while his city has seen significant damage, he expects New Jersey voters to make it to the polls on Nov. 6.

“All of us are just trying to make sure everybody is safe and secure. Still have a few days to worry about that and I’m pretty confident all throughout the state of New Jersey, as we focus on what’s most important, which is people’s safety, security, restoration of power,” Booker said on CNN. “I’m sure that as Election Day gets closer, we’re going to find ways to make sure that it’s as functional as possible, people are able to vote.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate told CBS News that his agency is providing support to all Eastern states. “Primarily, right now ... we’re assisting in New Jersey along some of the coastal communities. But this is a rapidly changing situation,” Fugate said. “We are very closely linked up with West Virginia, about the snow, and what may be needed there.”

Areas in West Virginia and other higher elevations received multiple feet of snow from Sandy when it merged with a cold front as it moved onshore, creating an unusual event that the Weather Channel called a “superstorm.”

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