US & Canada

Sandy steals spotlight from Romney

  • 30 October 2012
  • From the section US & Canada
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Exactly a week away from election day, and campaigning is on pause.

The candidates themselves, at least, are restraining themselves from overt politicking - but the calculation for each man is very different.

The White House says that the president was updated through the night as Hurricane Sandy carved its way up the coast - signing two declarations of disaster.

You can look at the politics of this positively or negatively. He really would be in trouble if people thought he was ignoring a major disaster to save his political career, travelling to swing states to campaign instead of staying in the White House.

But leading a country at a time of crisis, speaking for and to America is the very essence of what being a president is all about. So, if he does it well, it might help on the margins.

He has earned praise from one leading Republican, the governor of New Jersey. Chris Christie, usually a severe critic, said the president had been outstanding and deserved great credit for cutting through red tape and getting help to his state.

Mitt Romney cannot really compete with that.

But he showed good taste by converting an Ohio rally into a storm relief event.

Supporters were encouraged to bring along canned food and essential supplies to help those trapped.

As I am writing this, hurtling down the motorway to Washington (no, I'm not actually driving), I haven't seen the event. Reports suggest it was slightly weird but, overall, got the tone right.

There was no politics in Mr Romney's short speech.

Instead, he said: "I appreciate the fact that people in Dayton got up this morning. Some went to the grocery store, I see, and picked up a couple of things that these families will need, and I appreciate your generosity.

"It's part of the American spirit, the American way, to give to people who are in need, and your generosity this morning touches my heart."

But the tactics of respect for the storm and its victims are going to diverge. Mitt Romney risks being squeezed out of the debate and is resuming campaigning tomorrow.

The president will not be campaigning. Being seen to be doing his job, and doing it well, is worth a thousand rallies.