He also appealed for contributions to the Red Cross. It is a much different appeal than he had planned for his Ohio swing. Then, he would have been asking for votes.
Ohio Democrats would love to have Obama there as much as possible as the race tightens, but were fully supportive of the cancellation. "The president needs to be presidential. Leadership is what you do in the worst of times," said longtime Ohio Democratic strategist Jerry Austin.
Austin did not feel that Wednesday's cancellation would have a negative effect on the tight race in critical Ohio, where Obama narrowly leads Romney and which is a must-win for both candidates.
A White House official described the president as "very intense" about keeping the focus on relief efforts. "In the Sit Room meeting this morning, he said, "˜I want everyone leaning forward on this. I don't want to hear that we didn't do something because bureaucracy got in the way,' " said the official. "He told his team to think creatively about ways to assist local areas and utilities that have been hit with power outages."
On Tuesday, Obama held a conference call bringing together the governors and big-city mayors in the region affected. On the call, according to the White House, were the 13 governors of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire. The mayors of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Newark, Jersey City, Atlantic City, and the District of Columbia also joined in. The White House said that some of the governors whose states absorbed less damage offered to provide aid to the harder-hit states. The president ordered Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to facilitate the delivery of these resources.
Democrats hope any damage done by the lost campaign time on the ground will be balanced by voters seeing him doing his job in a crisis and by the praise coming from the local officials dealing with the crisis on the ground. And the White House made sure that pictures were released showing him at work in the Situation Room and in the Oval Office. It was a reminder that one of the candidates is the incumbent. Incumbency has risks — just ask President George W. Bush about the criticism that comes when you fumble a storm response like Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But it also has its benefits when the response is handled smoothly and professionally. It is easier, after all, to look "presidential" when you're actually president.
And it never hurts if those actions bring praise from one of your toughest critics in the other party. That came early on Tuesday from one of Republican nominee Mitt Romney's most outspoken champions, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who said he had been on the phone with Obama three times in the previous 24 hours. At 4:28 a.m., Christie tweeted "I want to thank the president personally for all his assistance as (we) recover from the storm." The governor then praised Obama again in an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He said, "The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit." He added that Obama "told me to call him if I needed anything and he absolutely means it and it's been very good working with the president and his administration." In another interview with the Today show, Christie said that the president "has been outstanding."