Obama front and center in storm crisis as Romney subdued

Updated: 2012-11-01 11:35


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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - In a close and bitterly fought campaign for president, it was a day of contrasts: President Barack Obama joined New Jersey's Republican governor to tour storm-ravaged areas, while election rival Mitt Romney was relegated to a subdued day of rallies in Florida.

The devastation wrought by mammoth storm Sandy allowed Obama to project an image of a president in charge at a time of crisis. Tied in polls six days before the election, he is fighting to gain an edge over Republican Romney whose recent momentum may be slowing.

Obama front and center in storm crisis as Romney subdued

US President Barack Obama (3rd L) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (L) talk with survivors of Hurricane Sandy in a community center while touring damaged areas in Brigantine, New Jersey, Oct 31, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

The Democrat took a helicopter tour of the damage in New Jersey with Governor Chris Christie, a high-profile Romney supporter who has nevertheless praised Obama lavishly in the last two days for expediting federal storm relief.

With Christie at his side, Obama promised quick federal aid.

"We're not going to tolerate red tape, we're not going to tolerate bureaucracy," he said.

In unusually warm remarks, Christie again lauded Obama.

"It's really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that's going on here in New Jersey and I appreciate it very much," he said, later thanking the president for his "compassion".

His comments were all the more remarkable given that Christie, normally a hard-nosed partisan, was the keynote speaker at the Republican convention in August and has often accompanied Romney at rallies.

Obama clung to a slender lead in most of the swing states that will decide who captures the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

He scrapped three days of campaign events this week to deal with the storm, a move that may in fact improve his standing with voters. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found eight in 10 voters gave Obama an "excellent" or "good" rating for his handling of the emergency.

Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden, asked by reporters whether he agreed with Christie that Obama was doing a good job handling the hurricane response, said: "I believe the response is still going on so I'm not in a position to qualify the response by the federal government. I believe it's still ongoing."

Visiting the swing state of Florida, Romney had to tone down his remarks for a second consecutive day in order to avoid appearing too political after the storm that crippled transportation, knocked out power for millions and killed 64 people on the eastern seaboard.

Rather than blasting Obama for what he typically calls failures to turn around the economy, Romney did not mention his rival's name, instead saying a change in course is needed and that he would bring Americans together if elected.

"Look, we can't go on the road we're on, we can't change course in America if we keep on attacking each other. We have got to come together," he said in Coral Gables.

Obama front and center in storm crisis as Romney subdued

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greets audience members at a campaign rally in Coral Gables, Florida, Oct 31, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

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