Updated 12:50 p.m. | Not many events could keep a president from campaigning for re-election one week before Election Day, but the hurricane threatening the Eastern Seaboard and nearing landfall is exactly that kind of disaster.
President Barack Obama is off the campaign trail and will be at least through Tuesday because he needs to monitor storm response to Hurricane Sandy. On Sunday night, the president left Washington, D.C., for Florida to attend a campaign rally, but by 7 a.m today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the president would skip the rally and return to the capitol this morning. The White House and the Obama campaign also announced this morning that a scheduled campaign trip to Green Bay, Wis., on Tuesday was canceled.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney went to Ohio, a battleground state away from the storm, instead of Virginia as previously planned. But by late morning, Romney's campaign had decided to cancel all campaign events through Tuesday.
"Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way. We will provide additional details regarding Governor Romney's and Congressman Ryan's schedule when they are available," Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in a statement.
Campaign surrogates are also canceling events.
While the executive branch of the government shut down because of Sandy and many businesses in Washington, D.C., did likewise, the Supreme Court was hard at work this morning, holding oral arguments. The court will be closed on Tuesday, however. Oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday will now take place on Thursday.
The court also granted review of some other cases this morning.
As for the campaign, there's little doubt that questions about disaster response will overshadow the final week before the elections, given Sandy's pummeling of the Eastern Seaboard. The immediate concern, however, will be protecting lives.
Oddly enough, this in not the first time these questions have surfaced during this campaign season. When Hurricane Isaac crossed through the Gulf of Mexico, it disrupted proceedings at the Republican National Convention. Later, remnants of the storm forced the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., to move indoors.
In August, Roll Call reported on the possibility that Democrats could make campaign fodder out of the way the House budget resolution championed by vice presidential nominee and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposed to fund disaster aid. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was particularly critical of the concept of requiring spending offsets to pay for unexpected federal disaster relief funds.
Romney has come under some scrutiny in the past 24 hours for comments made during a Republican primary debate that aired on CNN.
Asked about the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Romney somewhat avoided the question and said that, generally, programs should be returned to state and private-sector control when possible. Pressed by the moderator if he meant to include disaster relief in that statement, Romney essentially said yes.
"We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids," Romney said.
Disaster relief may not be the only issue to receive attention going forward. The National Hurricane Center has already faced some criticism from other meteorologists for following technical definitions too closely.
The agency decided against issuing hurricane or tropical storm warnings for the Jersey shore and surrounding coastlines because the system likely will not have all the scientific characteristics of a tropical storm when it reaches land, despite packing hurricane-force winds.
The damage from this storm could be most pronounced along the Connecticut, New York and New Jersey coastlines north and northwest of landfall, where storm surge from the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound is already inundating the area.