With 8 days till Election Day, Sandy changes the race


(CBS News) There are just eight days until Election Day, and the only the that could stop the presidential candidates from campaigning was a hurricane.

President Obama called off a campaign stop in Florida Monday morning, and returned to Washington, which was already feeling the sting of Hurricane Sandy.

After canceling his appearance at a morning campaign rally in Orlando, Fla., President Obama walks into the White House in a driving rain after returning to Washington to monitor preparations for early response to Hurricane Sandy, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

After a briefing from emergency officials, the president appeared before cameras.

"This is going to be a big and powerful storm and all across the Eastern Seaboard, I think everybody is taking the appropriate preparations," Mr. Obama said.

He urged people in danger areas to cooperate with emergency officials.

"Please listen to what your state and local officials are saying. When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate, do not delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given," the president said.

But he wouldn't talk about what the storm means for next week.

"I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I'm worried about the impact on families and I'm worried about the impact on our first responders. I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. You know, the election will take care of itself next week," Mr. Obama said.

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Even though his campaigning is suspended for at least two days, Mr. Obama may benefit from just being in charge in a time of crisis -- as long as government relief efforts don't fall short.

Of course the campaign isn't really suspended. He has his surrogates on the road. Former president Bill Clinton spoke Monday in Orlando, and in Ohio, where he joined Vice President Joe Biden.

Mitt Romney also canceled campaign events Monday.

"A lot of people are enduring some very difficult times and our hearts and our prayers go to them as we think about how tough it's going to be there," Romney said.

In Ohio, Romney struck a somber tone.

mitt romney, ohio
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney listens in on conference call with advisers aboard his campaign bus en route to a campaign rally at Avon Lake High School on October 29, 2012, in Avon Lake, Ohio. Romney has canceled other campaign events on October 29 and 30 due to Hurricane Sandy. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"I'd like to ask you that are here today to think about making a contribution to the Red Cross or to another relief agency, to be of help if you possibly can in any way you can imagine to help those who are in harm's way," Romney said.

With the race now a dead heat, Romney was hoping to build momentum in the final stretch.

But the hurricane has halted the campaign. Romney cancelled rallies in the toss up states of Virginia and New Hampshire -- and Monday he cancelled a rally in Wisconsin and all of his campaign stops on Tuesday in Ohio and Iowa.

Romney's local campaign offices now are accepting contributions for victims, and he's made available campaign buses to distribute supplies.

Romney was in Iowa Monday afternoon and he said he was briefed by telephone from officials from FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Weather Service.

Romney campaign officials are not worried about momentum. They said they believe the storm will "freeze" the race in place until the campaign resumes.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent