News Column

Obama Puts Priority on Post-Sandy Recovery

Oct. 31, 2012

By Aamer Madhani

obama

As Election Day draws near, President Obama continues the delicate balancing act of running for re-election while helping manage the response to the storm that has ravaged a huge swath of the East Coast.

The White House announced Tuesday that the president was canceling previously scheduled plans to campaign in Ohio today and would instead travel to New Jersey to meet with Gov. Chris Christie and tour areas that have been damaged by the storm. It marks the third straight day that Obama steps off the campaign trail to focus on the federal response and fallout to the storm.

In remarks at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, Obama called the devastation "heartbreaking for the entire nation," but also promised that the federal government was fully behind local and state authorities dealing with the recovery and response.

Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu also held a late-afternoon call with utility company executives to discuss efforts to restore power to millions of Americans.

Earlier in the day, the president spoke in a conference call with governors and mayors from areas affected by the storm and told them if they ran into unnecessary red tape that they should contact him directly.

"There is no excuse for inaction at this point," said Obama, who ignored questions from reporters on how he thought the storm would impact his re-election effort. "I want every agency moving forward to make sure we are getting the resources where they are needed as quickly as possible."

Although Obama may be off the trail, his campaign operation hasn't shut down. In swing states such as Virginia and North Carolina that were affected by the storm, the Obama campaign quietly began reopening operations on Tuesday.

The campaign also ceased sending fundraising e-mails to those in the storm's path Monday. Instead, it sent out e-mail blasts from Obama and his advisers encouraging supporters to donate to the Red Cross.

Vice President Biden conducted prerecorded radio interviews with the Spanish language Univision America Radio Network on Tuesday.

Former president Bill Clinton, who has become Obama's most notable surrogate in the final days before the election, also campaigned on Tuesday in Minnesota.

Dealing with disaster has taken away precious days of campaigning in key battleground states, but Obama hasn't missed out on media exposure by turning his attention fully to his duties as president, noted John Straayer, professor of political science at Colorado State University.

"The point person in a situation like this is the sitting president, not the challenger," Straayer said. "He got airtime; it gave him the opportunity to remind everybody that he's the president and he's getting something done."

Most important, Straayer noted, Obama has given the storm his full attention and has avoided facing the sort of criticism that President George W. Bush faced after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In fact, as the Mid-Atlantic region took stock of the damage caused by Sandy on Tuesday, Christie, a Republican and a Romney supporter, offered Obama high praise and even called the president's response to the storm "outstanding."



Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012


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