As post-tropical cyclone Sandy rips through the east coast, leaving millions impacted and without power, President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney are changing their plans for the week and have canceled their campaign visits to Wisconsin.
With just a week left before the national election, Obama had planned a campaign stop in Green Bay and Romney had planned to speak in West Allis, Wis. this week, both of which were canceled in response to Sandy.
Obama made a televised statement about the storm on Monday afternoon, requesting those citizens in the path of the storm take the situation very seriously and to listen to local and state government officials.
He said he has spoken to the governors in all the states that are expected to be impacted, and Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel are working with state and local governments to makes sure everyone is prepared.
“The key is making sure everyone is ready,” Obama said in his statement. “My conversations with the governors indicate that there are no unmet needs, and we are taking this seriously and have pre-positioned all the resources needed.”
Obama said the National Guard and the Department of Defense are positioned to provide aid, and citizens should anticipate transportation back-up caused by flooding and delays in getting the power back on.
When asked about how he thinks the storm will affect the upcoming election, the president said he is not concerned with it at this point.
“I am not worried about the impact on the election. I am worried about the impact on families, the impact on first responders and the impact on the economy and transportation. The election will take care of itself next week,” Obama said. “Right now the number one priority is saving lives.”
Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said this is an interesting and unusual thing to happen right before a big election because it suspends everything. He said the timing of the storm might affect the momentum of the election, and whichever candidate is ahead might lose their edge.
The main effect on Wisconsin, Heck said, is the change in travel schedules of the candidates being changed. When the worst of the storm is over, Heck said he predicts an influx of campaign visits in Wisconsin to win last minute votes.
Heck said hopes that this disaster might make the campaign less nasty, because candidates will be less likely to take jabs at one another now that there is a much bigger crisis to focus on.
“We haven’t had a national disaster like this right before an election in a long time – or possibly ever. It might make the campaign even more trivial in light of the damaging effects of the storm,” Heck said. “The country ought to be on the same side during a natural disaster.”
Heck added the candidates are doing the right thing by suspending their campaigns.
Mike McCabe, executive director for One Wisconsin Now said he does not think the natural disaster will have much of an effect on the campaign, unless the Obama Administration mishandles it.
“If there were to be a poor response to the disaster, the bad press about the Obama Administration could have an effect on the outcome of the election,” McCabe said.
McCabe said he thinks since the campaign has to get out of coastal battle ground states such as Virginia and North Carolina, the candidates will wind up spending more time in Midwestern battleground states like Ohio and Wisconsin after the immediate dangers and impact of the storm subsides.
As Obama and Romney’s presidential campaigns have halted because of the weather out east, the Midwest is also experiencing the effects of the storm, according to the Associated Press, which reported that The National Weather Service issued a warning for the Great Lakes region.
The Port of Milwaukee is taking precautions because of the 15 foot waves expected to hit the coast.
Pleasant Prairie, a village in the southeastern part of Wisconsin also had a voluntary evacuation Monday night because of potential high waves from Lake Michigan.
Gov. Scott Walker also said the Wisconsin National Guard is standing by and can provide aid to other states if necessary.
The University of Wisconsin also has resources on standby to aid students who have been affected by Sandy. UW released a statement saying the university will provide assistance with academic and “student life issues” to students impacted by the storm.
“As the storm prepares to make landfall, we’re concerned for all of our East Coast students here in Wisconsin as well as their families and friends back home,” Dean of Students Lori Berquam said in the statement.
Berquam is contacting students with families on the east coast and telling them to keep in touch with their families, according to the statement.
Students that want access to counseling are urged to call the University Health Services Counseling and Consultation Services at (608) 265-5600, the statement said, and drop-in hours are held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday.
-The Associated Press contributed to this story.