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Hurricane throws campaign schedule in flux as candidates cancel events

Although the candidates' schedules were thrown off by the storm, neither campaign wanted to focus on politics. In a briefing at the White House Monday, President Obama said he's not worried about what impact Sandy could have on the election. And in Ohio, Mitt Romney emphasized the need for America to come together during times of difficulty. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

 

Updated 12:58 p.m. ET — President Barack Obama urged Americans to heed local officials' warnings about Hurricane Sandy on Monday as his re-election said it would determine the president's campaign schedule on a "day-to-day basis."

The president appeared at the White House and said he was "confident" states and local governments were prepared to weather the megastorm barreling toward the East Coast of the United States, though he cautioned that it could take time to restore transportation and electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Obama said Sandy would be "a slow-moving storm through a wide swath of the country."

"We're confident that the assets are pre-positioned for an effective response in the aftermath of this storm," he added.

In an NBC News special report, President Obama stresses the importance of abiding by evacuation orders from local officials, warning that Sandy is a "serious storm" that could have "fatal consequences" if people don't act accordingly.

The hurricane forced Obama to cut short a trip to Florida and canceled events scheduled for Tuesday. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney followed suit, as he and running mate Paul Ryan canceled most of their events on Monday afternoon and Tuesday.

The storm reshuffled the race for the presidency, just eight days before voters head to the polls. Surrogates for Obama — like former President Bill Clinton — stepped forward in place of the president at campaign events as Obama remained in Washington to handle the storm. In addition to canceling stops in Colorado and Virginia, the White House said Monday that Obama would no longer travel to Wisconsin tomorrow, either. The next campaign events on Obama's schedule are on Wednesday, in Ohio.

Romney canceled an afternoon event in Wisconsin and Ryan would no longer appear in Florida. 

The Washington Post's Dan Balz, The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page, former Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, and Republican ad-maker Kim Alfano join The Daily Rundown to talk about President  Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's campaign strategy over the next few days as Hurricane Sandy touches down.

"Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way," said Gail Gitcho, Romney's communications director. "We will provide additional details regarding Governor Romney's and Congressman Ryan's schedule when they are available." 

Obama met in the White House situation room in order to be “updated on the latest forecast for Hurricane Sandy and the extensive federal effort underway to support the state and local response to this historic storm," according to press secretary Jay Carney. Multiple cabinet secretaries, many members of the president’s White House staff and the heads of FEMA and the National Hurricane Center will participate in this meeting.

But the president's official duties put his campaign schedule in flux, just as the presidential campaign enters its final phase.

"The president's focus is on the storm and governing the country and making sure our people are safe," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call with reporters. He said the president's campaign would take scheduling on a day-by-day basis. 

"We're obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time, but that's obviously how it has to be, and we'll try to make it up on the back end," added David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. 

There are eight days before election day, but there may be even fewer campaign days left as Hurricane Sandy causes problems with campaign travel. NBC's Chuck Todd reports on the changes to both candidates' plans.

Speaking Monday afternoon at the White House, the president said he wasn't concerned about the potential impact of the storm on voting. 

"I am not worried at this point on the impact on the election," he said. "I'm worried about the impact on families and our first responders."

Clinton took Obama's place at a rally this morning in Wisconsin and was set to join Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio later this afternoon. 

Romney pushed forward with his campaign schedule on Monday, which took him to Ohio early in the day and to Wisconsin later in the day. The Republican's campaign put a hold on its fundraising pitches to voters in states in Hurricane Sandy's path, and urged supporters to remove lawn signs for fear that they might become debris. 

Romney campaign offices also collected donations to the Red Cross, items which its bus was supposed to deliver to storm victims.

"Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury. And so if you have the capacity to make a donation to the American Red Cross, you can go online and do that," the former Massachusetts governor told an overflow crowd in Avon Lake, Ohio. "If there are other ways that you can help, please take advantage of them because there will be a lot of people that are going to be looking for help and the people in Ohio have big hearts, so we're expecting you to follow through and help out."

NBC's Shawna Thomas contributed reporting.

Reuters, Getty Images

In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.