Romney, in perhaps the more difficult role, of challenger, struggled slightly to hit a note that sounded presidential while maintaining his apparent momentum in the race: He initially vowed to press ahead with his campaign events but then abruptly canceled most of them for the duration of the storm.
Obama, after touring the battleground states last week and shouting himself hoarse at rallies, pivoted to his role as commander in chief. He canceled an appearance in Orlando with former president Bill Clinton, returned to Washington, convened a storm briefing in the White House situation room and then addressed the nation.
“Obviously, everyone is aware at this point that this is going to be a big and powerful storm,” Obama said. “Millions of people are going to be affected.”
In response to a question about the impact on the election, he said: “Right now, our number one priority is to make sure we are saving lives.’’
On Tuesday, the White House said Obama would stay off the campaign trail for a third consecutive day Wednesday, eschewing planned events in the critical state of Ohio, to continue monitoring the emergency response.
But politics hung in the air, if more discreetly than usual, as both campaigns recalibrated their strategies in a race that had been widely seen as a dead heat but that is now essentially frozen in place until the storm is over — and perhaps beyond. The Obama campaign convened a conference call to say that the president’s victory is inevitable, while Romney aides cited newspaper endorsements of the Republican candidate and evidence of his momentum in Ohio.
Obama aides had expressed concern that getting their supporters to the polls for early voting, a key part of their strategy, could be affected by the storm.
In the Washington region, early voting was suspended in the District and in Maryland. In Virginia, a battleground state, the storm forced the suspension of in-person absentee voting in 26 localities Monday, mostly in the heavily populated Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions.
Several of the Virginia locations were open for business on Tuesday. But some of those that remained shuttered were in Northern Virginia, a potential disadvantage for President Obama, who swept the region four years ago and won a sizeable margin in absentee voting. Officials in Maryland said early voting would resume Wednesday, and polling stations would extend their hours and stay open for an additional day to make up for the time lost to the storm.
A few places in North Carolina also closed down early voting because of the storm. But it continued unabated in Ohio, perhaps the biggest prize of all.