Candidates cancel campaign events

Mitt Romney and President Obama today canceled campaign appearances over the next few days, trying to navigate the dicey politics of a hurricane that is about to strike much of the East Coast.

Romney, who is still holding events today in Ohio and Iowa, canceled a planned rally tonight in Wisconsin. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan canceled events in Florida today, and both candidates canceled all events for Tuesday.

“On the eastern coast of our nation, a lot of people are enduring some very difficult times,” Romney said in Ohio. “And our hearts and our prayers go to them.”

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Gail Gitcho, the campaign’s communications director, said the decision to cancel the upcoming events was made “out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy.”

“Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way,” she said in a statement.

Romney had previously canceled a Tuesday rally in New Hampshire. Along with the Wisconsin event, that means Romney is forced to stay away from two states where polls have tightened but where he hasn’t been in weeks. Romney also canceled several events on Sunday in Virginia, another state that remains hotly contested.

Both campaigns were suspending their campaign events indefinitely, making announcements that extended through Tuesday.

Obama flew to Orlando last night, only to return this morning before a scheduled rally he was supposed to attend with former president Bill Clinton. Obama had previously canceled an appearance today in Youngstown, Ohio.

Vice President Biden canceled a rally in Keene, N.H., today and instead diverted last night to Ohio, and is now scheduled to appear in Youngstown with President Clinton.

Obama returned to Washington, holding briefings with emergency officials preparing for the storm and appearing in the White House briefing room to urge Americans to get out of the path of the storm and to heed warnings from local officials.

“I am not worried at this point about the impact on the election. I’m worried about the impact on our families,” he said. “The election will take care of itself next week. Right now our number one priority is that we’re saving lives.”