Presidential race rained out even in sunny states

By Nicholas Riccardi

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 30 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane in Moline, Ill., as he travels to Dayton, Ohio, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Charles Dharapak, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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DENVER — Crista Laughlin was a mile high and dry, but Superstorm Sandy still kept the 40-year-old Obama campaign volunteer from walking precincts or working the phones.

Instead, she was huddled inside her suburban Denver home, watching storm coverage on television and thinking about her grandson in Norfolk, Va., in the hurricane's path. "I'm actually with the president on this one: The election will take care of itself in a week. What's on our minds is the people," said Laughlin, a 40-year-old volunteer in Aurora, Colo.

The presidential election was, well, rained out Monday — from the media centers and storm-battered battleground states of the Atlantic coast to the arid, high plains suburbia of Colorado. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan canceled three Colorado appearances scheduled for Tuesday as the Romney's campaign announced it was suspending political events featuring the top of its ticket. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama scrapped his own Tuesday appearances — including one in Colorado — and fled a Monday morning rally in Florida to make it back to the White House before the storm.

The president's campaign emailed supporters urging them to donate to charities that help storm victims. In Romney campaign offices, volunteers cut into their phone-banking and door-knocking time to stockpile canned goods to send to the disaster zone. The storm gave Obama a chance to appear presidential during a national emergency, and challenger Mitt Romney a potential opening should the federal government botch the response.

It also had a political impact thousands of miles away, giving people like Roger Draeger a break.

The 75-year-old funeral driver from Fort Atkinson, Wis., is a Romney supporter, but he was glad both candidates suspended their campaigns Monday. It was a blessed reprieve from the nonstop political debate that has dominated Wisconsin since Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill limiting collective bargaining for state workers last year, triggering a long series of recall elections.

Still, like other residents of this poll-obsessed nation, Draegar quickly began to analyze the upsides and downsides for each candidate, saying both should be visible in the aftermath. Obama "really needs to show a lot of compassion for all those states and cities," he said.

It's a sign of how thoroughly the campaign has permeated swing-state life that Dan Guimond, 61, an economist in Denver, was partly getting his hurricane updates through the political-junkie website Real Clear Politics and The New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight. Guimond is worried about his parents, who live in Massachusetts, but not worried about how the storm could affect the race. "Obama canceled his, what, 26th trip to Colorado? Big deal," he said.

A modicum of politics still continues here. Former President Bill Clinton and Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, were still slated to campaign in Colorado on Tuesday, and the Romney campaign sent the candidate's son Craig to an early vote event Monday afternoon. The president, notably, is scheduled to return to Colorado Thursday. Still, some of his supporters said they may not be able to do as much for him.

Mitt Romney held what his campaign called a "storm relief event" in Ohio Tuesday. His wife, Ann, will help gather donations at campaign offices in Wisconsin and Iowa Tuesday before a Des Moines, Iowa, rally. The Romney campaign also announced Ryan will drop by a donation drive in Wisconsin.

Denver Pastor Leon Emerson, head of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, spent the weekend rallying voters for Obama with actor Laurence Fishburne. But he expects Sunday talks at church to focus less on the upcoming election and more on the storm.

"I'll eventually talk about the election, but I may not put as much emphasis on it, depending how this hurricane turns out," Emerson said. "Politics is one thing, but you know what? We're going to keep our attention on helping mankind."

Emerson said his congregation is shifting focus, too.

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