Campaigns on hold, no timeout for politics

Oct. 30, 2012 at 5:24 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. presidential campaign mostly stood down Tuesday due to preoccupation with post-tropical Cyclone Sandy but politics was in play just the same.

The White House said President Barack Obama was focusing on the government's response to the storm -- which has been blamed for at least 39 deaths in the United States, and at least 107 overall -- and Republican nominee Mitt Romney held what his campaign called a storm relief event in Ohio.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- whose state took the first, and possibly the worst, hit from Sandy -- said in several interviews Tuesday the president has been handling the storm admirably.

He told NBC Obama "deserves great credit."

Christie said on Fox News he had been in constant contact with the president, who called the governor at midnight Monday night to ask "what he could do."

"I said, if you can expedite designating New Jersey as a major disaster area that that would help us to get federal money and resources in here as quickly as possible to help clean up the damage here," Christie said.

"The president was great last night," he said, telling Fox viewers he got a call 2 hours later from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the president signed the emergency declaration early Tuesday.

"He's done -- as far as I'm concerned -- a great job for New Jersey," Christie said.

When a Fox News host asked Christie whether Romney would go to New Jersey for "some storm-related event," Christie responded with the kind of blunt talk that has helped make him a national figure in the Republican Party.

"I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested," he said. "I've got a job to do here in New Jersey that's much bigger than presidential politics and I could [sic] care less about any of that stuff.

"I've got 2.4 million people out of power. I've got devastation on the shore. I've got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don't know me."

At an event in Kettering, Ohio, near Dayton -- attended by former NASCAR driver Richard Petty and country music singer Randy Owen -- Romney helped gather donations and urged supporters Tuesday to help those affected by the storm.

"We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all of the suffering going on in a major part of our country," he said. "A lot of people are hurting this morning and they were hurting last night."

However, USA Today said the event "looked like a campaign rally and sounded like one."

Although Romney did not deliver his customary stump speech, the event featured the screening of a film biography of the nominee and some of those attending chanted, "We want Mitt!" before he spoke.

Former President Bill Clinton appeared at a campaign rally at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, using the storm as a context for criticizing Romney's policy on climate change, CBS News reported.

"He ridiculed the president [during their first debate] for his efforts to fight global warming in economically efficient ways," Clinton said.

"In the real world, Barack Obama's policies work better," he said.

The Romney campaign Tuesday released a memo from its political director claiming battleground states Minnesota and Pennsylvania -- which previously appeared to be in Obama's column -- were trending toward Romney, The Hill reported.

"With one week to go, and 96 percent of the vote on the table on Election Day in Pennsylvania, this expansion of the electoral map demonstrates that Governor Romney's momentum has jumped containment from the usual target states and has spread to deeper blue states that Chicago never anticipated defending," the memo read.

The Hill noted the RealClearPolitics average of polls show Obama leads Romney by 4.7 percent in Pennsylvania.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the Romney campaign was posturing and Obama is "leading or tied in every battleground state across the country, and he leads early voting in every state across the country," The Hill reported.

"Three things are now absolutely clear in this race -- we have a significant early vote advantage in states from North Carolina to Nevada, there is no Romney momentum in the battleground states, and the Romney campaign has found itself with a tremendously narrow and improbable path to 270 electoral votes," Messina wrote in a memo.

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