US President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney may have officially suspended their election campaigns to concentrate on relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, but with just a week to go before the election, it’s clear some political footsoldiers and commentators have not got the message.
Mr Romney five times ignored questions put to him at an Ohio event — officially a storm-relief fundraiser — about comments he once made advocating stripping funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Instead, he told the audience in a gymnasium in the city of Kettering: “We have heavy hearts, as you know, with all of the suffering going on. I appreciate what you have done.”
Reporters at the event noted women proudly showing off t-shirts that read, “Obama — you’re fired”.
Having spent Monday night at the White House keeping tabs on the storm’s progress and overseeing the emergency response, President Obama today visited a Red Cross shelter in Washington, DC.
“We certainly feel profoundly for all the families whose lives have been upended … The most important message I have for [those affected] is that America’s with you,” Mr Obama said.
But even before the storm surge had peaked, high-profile conservative columnists attacked the President for playing politics.
“He says he’s not concerned about the impact on the elections,” Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News.
“I’m sure he’s very sincere on that. It is a little odd that he shows up in the briefing room, where he hasn’t shown up in the briefing room for about, what, a month-and-a-half on Libya, or for everything else for that matter? Then you get the photo-ops of him in the situation room deploying, I guess, the utility crews who will restore power all over America.”
Meanwhile, a Salon南京夜網 commentator wrote that Mr Romney’s Ohio event was “surreal enough to be a campaign parody, with the candidate comparing the federal government’s hurricane relief efforts to the time he and some friends had to clean up a football field strewn with rubbish and paper products”.
Perhaps the weirdest political comments on the storm came from Michael Brown, the Bush-era FEMA chairman who was widely discredited for that administration’s lacklustre response to Hurricane Katrina. On Sunday night, he accused the President of getting involved too soon. He stood by those comments today.
One man who has garnered universal praise for his response is the combative New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is one of Mr Romney’s most high-profile surrogates.
On Monday, he attacked the Democrat mayor of Atlantic City before praising President Obama for his energetic response.
“I have to say, the administration, the president himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far,” he told reporters.
Mr Christie, who many expected to run for president this year, dismissed the election as not a priority.
“I’m sure that while the national election is obviously very important, that the people of New Jersey, in this moment, would really be unhappy with me if they thought for a second I was occupying my time thinking about how I was going to get people to vote a week from today,” Christie told reporters today.
Mr Romney will resume his campaign events Wednesday in the US, while Barack Obama is not expected to return to the campaign trail until Thursday.
How the storm will impact upon the election is unclear. Three of the eight major daily tracking polls — the lifeblood of the campaigns and the political media in the last few days of a deadlocked election — have been suspended.
On a more practical level, early voting has been disrupted across the north-east, although it is impossible to predict exactly how this might affect the election. The President was thought to have an advantage among early voters until recent polls suggested Mr Romney had whittled this down.
It is also unclear now whether the impact of the storm could hinder people from getting to the polls next Tuesday. If that is the case, polling places could open longer.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.