Obama’s decision to campaign during the week of the GOP convention reflects the tightness of his race with opponent Mitt Romney and his campaign’s reluctance to leave anything to chance, particularly in the nine battleground states widely viewed as key to winning on Nov. 6. They include Iowa, Colorado and Virginia.
Candidates have traditionally taken a low public profile during their opponents’ nominating conventions. But the practice of “bracketing,” or sending high-level surrogates and even candidates themselves to steal attention at opposing events, has become commonplace this year. Vice President Biden was originally scheduled to spend Monday and Tuesday in Florida to generate media attention during the GOP event, but his trip was canceled when Isaac began threatening the Florida Gulf Coast.
Isaac, upgraded from tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane midday Tuesday, still may prove the winner in the race for media attention this week — and that could help Obama more than Romney. As the storm continues to barrel toward the New Orleans region, Obama will be able to lead federal preparations — and response — in a way that only a sitting president can.
“We’ve been getting ready for this storm for days,” Obama said before an outdoor crowd standing in the shadow of Iowa State University’s campus clock tower. “We’ve got response teams and supplies in place. America will be there no matter what this storm brings, because no matter what disaster strikes, we are not Democrats first. We are not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re one family, and we help our neighbors in need.”
But Obama quickly pivoted to his stump speech, invoking feisty language to criticize Romney’s plans to roll back Obamacare and lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“Maybe we should call his plan ‘Romney Doesn’t Care,’ ’’ Obama said. “Because I do care. And this law is here to stay.”
The split-screen political environment created by Isaac was evident during a briefing for reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. Press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would be working as both commander in chief and candidate. “He is also conducting campaign events but . . . will be getting information regularly on the status of the storm and on the status of the federal response.”
Campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki followed up, leaving open the possibility that Obama could visit storm-damaged areas later in the week.
“As Jay mentioned, the president continues to monitor what’s happening,” Psaki said. “If anything needs to be changed, that is something we will adjust.”