x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Obama and Romney cancel campaign appearances over Frankenstorm fallout

Presidential candidates cancel a third day of campaigning in wake of Hurricane Sandy.

COLUMBUS // Pulled back to Washington to address the storm pounding the East Coast just days before the presidential election, United States president Barack Obama passed his campaign banner yesterday on to the vice president, Joe Biden, and the man he has anointed his "Secretary of Explaining Stuff", the former president, Bill Clinton.

Mr Biden and Mr Clinton joined forces at a rally in the key battleground state of Ohio, where they sought to keep alive the Obama campaign strategy of combining rallies and other personal contact with a push for early voting by Democrats ahead of the November 6 election.

Mr Obama had cut short a campaign trip to Florida to deal with Hurricane Sandy. He cancelled a third day of campaigning because of the storm.

The White House says the president will not attend events scheduled for today in Ohio. He will remain in Washington to monitor the storm and the federal response. Mr Obama had already cancelled events on Monday and yesterday to be at the White House during the storm.

"We went to Florida last night and he got up this morning and called me and said, 'I gotta go back right now. This storm is getting out of hand, I gotta handle it,'" Mr Clinton told the crowd of 4,800 at the Covelli Centre, an ice rink in Youngstown. "And I said 'Mr President that is the right call'."

Mr Clinton evoked Mr Obama through stories and jokes, personalising the president while running through a list of arguments against the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney. Mr Clinton joked that the audience was "stuck" with him because his wife, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, "has one of the two jobs in the government that doesn't permit you to be in politics".

Ohio is one of the "epicentres" of the election, according to Mr Biden, and both Mr Obama and Mr Romney had planned on blanketing the state in the final days leading up to the election.

"If we win Ohio, we win this election," Mr Biden said, pressing supporters to get out to vote.

Mr Romney has caught up with Mr Obama in national opinion polls and gained ground against the Democrat in surveys in Ohio too.

A Rasmussen Reports poll on Monday showed Mr Romney ahead by 50 per cent to 48 per cent.

The Republican also cancelled campaign events on Monday night and yesterday in Milwaukee, Iowa and Florida out of respect for the tens of millions in danger from Sandy.

The Democrats are sparing no effort to get people to the polls before election day, and many of their events in Ohio are targeted at building enthusiasm for early voting. According to Gallup, 15 per cent of the president's supporters have already voted and 33 per cent intend to vote early, compared with 17 per cent of Romney voters who have voted and 34 per cent planning to vote.

Even though Mr Biden delivered a rousing speech in Ohio, he could not completely escape the reach of the storm and had to cancel events scheduled there for yesterday.

Marilyn Ettinger, an Ohio woman standing inside the Covelli Centre as hail pounded outside, said she had already voted, but was worried that the storm would prevent others from doing the same. She had driven an hour for the event.

Ms Ettinger said she had already missed seeing Mr Obama at another event, in Cleveland, due to weather and was disappointed he would not be in Youngstown. "But the last time I saw Clinton was the last day before he won his second term, so I'm hoping that today I bring good luck to Obama."