President Barack Obama, locked in a fierce re-election bid, is emphasizing his incumbent's role for a third straight day, skipping battleground states to visit victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, a state he's confident of winning. The president's actions have forced his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, to walk a careful line and make tough choices.
The former Massachusetts governor must show respect for the superstorm's casualties all along the Eastern Seaboard. But Romney can ill afford to waste a minute of campaign time, with the contest virtually deadlocked in several key states and the election six days away.
After tamping down his partisan tone Tuesday at an Ohio event that chiefly emphasized victims' relief, Romney planned three full-blown campaign events Wednesday in Florida, the largest competitive state. Sandy largely spared Florida, so Romney calculates he can campaign there without appearing callous.
Obama's revised schedule is a political gamble, too. Rather than use the campaign's final Wednesday to woo voters in tossup states, he will go before cameras with New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie. Christie is one of Romney's most prominent supporters, and a frequent Obama critic. But Christie praised Obama's handling of superstorm Sandy, a political twist the president's visit is sure to underscore.
Obama also took full advantage of incumbency Tuesday. He visited the Red Cross national headquarters — a short walk from the White House — to commiserate with victims and encourage aid workers.
"This is a tough time for millions of people," the president said. "But America is tougher."