Web Exclusive: The politics of Hurricane Sandy

(CNN) - A sure sign of Hurricane Sandy's strength may be the effect it has already had altering the tone of the presidential campaign.  The attention of both candidates has, for now, shifted to the storm.

The beauty of being a President and a candidate is that when a monster storm stalks the East Coast, you can run over to the federal emergency management agency and be seen as a president on the job, which also works if you're re-applying.  "It's so important for us to respond big and respond fast," says President Obama.

The President canceled his campaign trip Tuesday to Colorado, a swing state but far beyond the reach of Hurricane Sandy.  Still, his people say the president needs to stay home and monitor things. Which one Republican found interesting.

"You'll notice he's canceling his trips over the hurricane. He did not cancel his trips over Benghazi," says Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker.

Both the President and Republican president contender, Mitt Romney canceled appearances in the weather-threatened swing state of Virginia, so as not to chew up resources and otherwise get in the way of storm preparations.  But suppose they held an election and the electricity was out.

"The state board of elections is already planning for extended hours in advance for absentee voting, and it's now a priority, moved up to the same level as hospitals and police stations to have power restored," says Gov. Bob McDonnell, (R) Virginia. 

And what about states where the polls are open? The state of Maryland has already canceled early voting on Monday.  What these storm-driven time-outs will mean for the election even stumps master politicos.  "Obviously, we want unfettered access to the polls, because we believe that the more people come out, the better we're going to do, and so to the extent that it makes it harder, you know, that's a source of concern. But I don't know how all the politics will sort out," says David Axelrod, Obama Campaign Senior Adviser. 

Which brings us to the Romney/Ryan ticket: they are not in power and can't really do much but still have to pay attention.  "I know that right now some people in the country are a little nervous about a storm about to hit the coast, and our thoughts and prayers are with the people who will find themselves in harm's way," says Mitt Romney, Republican Presidential Nominee.

Just the forecast of a potential disaster can make politics look small.  So far, the Romney campaign has stopped fundraising emails into affected states, made a campaign bus available for relief efforts, started taking up collections in campaign offices, and put up a blog with weather-related advice.  And the itinerary may change.  Optics are tricky said one top republican who adds the schedule may change depending on what the storm does.  A disaster somewhere would make campaigning anywhere difficult.  Mixing politics and weather is to double down on the unknown.  


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