Sandy Stalls Race

KETTERING, Ohio (AP) – Superstorm Sandy is upending the final week of the presidential race, with President Barack Obama calling off another campaign day to tour ravaged New Jersey and Republican Mitt Romney trying to strike the right tone as he tries to close the deal with voters.

The White House announced Tuesday that Obama will not go ahead with a campaign swing through Ohio today and later said he would tour damage in New Jersey. He plans to remain in Washington to monitor recovery efforts for the storm that practically shut down New York City and spread damage across the East Coast.

Obama visited the American Red Cross near the White House on Tuesday to encourage donations and warned the storm was not done making its impact. Obama said he had a conference call with affected governors and mayors, and told them if issues arise “they can call me personally at the White House.”

Romney and running mate Paul Ryan initially announced they were canceling events out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in Sandy’s path. But with only a week left to try to toss Obama from office, the GOP campaign was back on Tuesday with events in the critical Midwestern swing states of Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, albeit with changes to the program.

“We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all the suffering going on, in a major part of our country,” Romney said before helping collect food donations for relief efforts. “A lot of people hurting this morning, they were hurting last night. And the storm goes on.”

Romney spoke for less than five minutes and avoided politics at a storm relief event in the same Ohio gymnasium as his previously scheduled political rally and with the same entertainment from country music singer Randy Owen. The event was moved up four hours and there was none of the usual criticism of the president, who was at the White House overseeing the response.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has been campaigning for Romney across the country and who is a pointed Obama critic, said in a series of morning television show interviews that Obama was in touch throughout the night as the storm struck New Jersey, including a call at midnight, and effectively expedited much-needed disaster relief.

“The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit,” Christie told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’ve been on the phone with him, like I said, yesterday personally three times. He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I need anything, and he absolutely means it. It’s been very good working with the president.”

The White House released a photo of the president receiving an update on the response from the Situation Room. Vice President Joe Biden participated in the video-conference from Ohio, where he spent part of the day holing up in a Columbus hotel before flying to Florida to resume campaign events today.

As he boarded his plane, Biden said it was unclear when Obama would return to campaigning and brushed off a question about the impact on the election.