Even the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report, due out Friday and considered important in a campaign that has turned on the economy, could be affected, since the storm closed down some federal agencies. Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio said that staffers “are working hard” to get the report out on time.
As the day began, the Romney campaign issued a statement saying the candidate would maintain a full schedule of events Monday in Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, and that running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would as well.
But later in the morning, the campaign canceled all of Romney’s rallies for Monday night and Tuesday as he was about to begin his first event of the day at a high school in Ohio. Romney’s advisers said they were worried about what one called the “split-screen problem” — live images of him rallying enthusiastic supporters juxtaposed against images of devastation along the Eastern Seaboard.
The storm also disrupted the closing argument Romney had been planning to unveil on Monday with a retooled stump speech focusing on his promise of “real change on Day One.” At a rally in Iowa before his events were canceled, he struck a positive tone on the future of the country and made note of the storm, telling the crowd that “the damage will probably be significant” and urging supporters to donate to the American Red Cross. He added that he had spoken with the National Weather Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Carney said it was too soon to assess the storm’s impact on the election. But Obama’s top strategists on Monday pressed forward with a story line that victory remains in reach — and, in fact, is inevitable.
The president’s team has “data and facts on our side, versus spin and wishful thinking on theirs,” campaign manager Jim Messina boasted on a conference call with reporters. “What the facts and numbers clearly show is that the president is going to win this election.”
The contrasting approaches to the storm reflected two candidates with differing visions for America who are now trying to juggle the imperatives of responding to a natural disaster.
For Obama, the storm’s challenge is a delicate one: to function as an effective commander in chief while waging a fight for his political life — and to avoid being seen as placing politics over the needs of storm-damaged areas and their residents.
Romney also will need to respond to storm damage but avoid the appearance of exploiting it for political gain.
Volunteers for both Obama and Romney in Virginia said they weren’t especially alarmed by the potential for Sandy to set them back politically; their sense was that the storm’s impact would be neutral, since it would freeze activity for everyone, and that they would resume the frenetic pace once Sandy had passed.
Barbara Kanninen, a volunteer from Arlington County and co-chairwoman of the president’s “Women for Obama” effort in Virginia, said: “I haven’t sensed any frustration on the part of the staff, volunteers or friends. I’m not frustrated, either. Our first priority is everyone’s safety.”
And Christine O’Connor, a Romney volunteer from Arlington, said, “Most Republicans prefer to vote on Election Day, so that’s still good for us. . . . I’m just going to play it by ear to see if we have power.”
Ed O’Keefe and Amy Gardner contributed to this report.