Romney, Obama scratch events: Bracing for Hurricane Sandy

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WASHINGTON–Hurricane Sandy is disrupting the Obama and Romney campaigns’ final week sprint, with events scrubbed and the storm impacting early voting in battleground states.

As the colossal storm works its way up the East Coast — with predictions it could turn inland — forecasters are issuing dire warnings of days-long power outages, flooding, strong winds, rain, snow and cold temperatures.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama, who stumped in battleground New Hampshire, was briefed on emergency preparations aboard Air Force One, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinated federal assistance to state and local first responders.

As the Eastern Seaboard is braced for the brunt of the storm, Obama is finding his last days of campaigning curtailed to deal with the potential disaster. A Hurricane Katrina-like disaster response — which haunted former President George W. Bush — could create an enormous problem for Obama just before the election.

On Saturday evening the White House announced Obama is canceling one of three events with former President Bill Clinton on Monday to return to the White House “to continue to monitor Hurricane Sandy,” predicted to make landfall late Monday. Also, a visit to Colorado Springs on Tuesday has also been canceled — with possible additional scrubs.

“The president will continue to receive regular briefings [on emergency preparations] and has made clear that he expects his team to continue to lean forward as Hurricane Sandy approaches,” the White House said.

The battlegrounds most potentially impacted are Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, with the storm possible blowing as far west as parts of Ohio. Extended power outages could curtail early voting place operations.

With Romney and Obama focused on winning the battleground electoral votes, RealClearPolitics estimates Obama still has a slight Electoral College edge, 201 to 191, with 146 electoral votes up for grabs; 270 are needed.

The rundown:

Romney canceled his Sunday Virginia stops and instead will join running mate Paul Ryan on a bus tour of battleground Ohio.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday declared a state of emergency, which influenced Romney’s decision to scratch his visit. Campaigning in Kissimmee, Fla., Romney said Saturday, “I was looking forward to being in Virginia tomorrow, but you know the hurricane is headed up there.”

Early voting started in battleground Florida on Saturday.

Biden’s Saturday visit to Virginia Beach — to stump with his wife, Jill, and son Beau Biden, the Delaware attorney general — was canceled “out of an abundance of caution” so to “all local law enforcement and emergency management resources can stay focused on ensuring the safety of people who might be impacted by the storm.”

Obama’s Monday appearance with Clinton in Prince William County, Va., is the one shelved. Obama and Clinton are still booked for Orlando, Fla., and Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday.

Sandy could head as far north as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where a rally headlined by first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday at the University of New Hampshire has been canceled. A Boston swing is also canceled.

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