Campaigns adjust as Hurricane Sandy approaches East Coast

WASHINGTON -- The presidential campaigns are adjusting their travel itineraries this weekend as the East Coast braces for a devastating storm aimed in the general direction of several battleground states.

Republican Mitt Romney is taking Virginia stops off his personal travel schedule this weekend, as has Vice President Joe Biden.

President Obama squeezed in a quick trip to New Hampshire on Saturday, and he will fly out Sunday night to spur his supporters in Florida, where early voting has begun.

Federal officials expect Hurricane Sandy to hit sometime late Monday or early Tuesday, likely between Virginia and Connecticut, though they say it’s hard to pinpoint the site of landfall.

But they believe the storm will cause heavy precipitation and intense winds as well as flooding and power outages -- not just on the coast but inland as well, National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said Saturday afternoon.

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The storm could mean snowfall in West Virginia and strong winds in the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes, with rainfall of several inches in Maryland and Pennsylvania, federal officials say.

Aides to Romney say they are canceling their travel to make sure they don’t get in the way of state and local officials bracing for the storm.

The Obama campaign is closely monitoring the storm, said spokesman Adam Fetcher, promising to “take all necessary precautions to make sure our staff and volunteers are safe.”

The storm not only complicates the Obama campaign’s outreach in Virginia but also adds to his to-do list. He has to stay on top of the federal government’s preparation for Hurricane Sandy – no small matter, given the scrutiny Republicans are likely to give his administration’s performance.

Obama started his day on Saturday with a briefing by his homeland security and emergency management teams. Obama told officials to make sure there are “no unmet needs” as states prepare for the storm, according to a summary of the meeting from his press office.

Craig Fugate, administration of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Obama directed them to “make sure we have the resources moving to the area” as the storm approaches.

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