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Presidential campaigns adjust to Hurricane Sandy

October 28, 2012|By Christi Parsons

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said he would halt early voting in his largely Democratic state on Monday but President Obama's reelection campaign says they don’t yet assume that Hurricane Sandy will significantly disrupt their voter turnout operations in critical swing states.

In the most closely contested states, Democrats are pinning hopes on Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts to tip the scales on election day. The president’s campaign has been building volunteer networks for months and even years in some areas.

The huge storm, which is expected to cause widespread destruction, has disrupted the president’s plans to travel to Virginia and Colorado on Monday and Tuesday to fire up volunteers and field workers for the critical final week.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney also canceled campaign events Monday in Virginia. Romney also may cancel an event in the state Tuesday, aides said.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Sandy, en route to "Frankenstorm"

But Democrats are nervous that the predicted high winds, power outages and other effects of the storm will impede their supporters from going to the polls. A large turnout generally is seen as benefiting Democrats.

On the other hand, Obama may gain if voters see him in action during the storm, leading the way for a broad federal response in the face of a natural calamity.

Unlike Maryland, where early voting began Saturday and voters stood in long lines all weekend, swing states Virginia and New Hampshire offer extensive early voting. Both states require an excuse for absentee ballots.

North Carolina does have early voting, but polls show it is likely to tilt into Romney's column. Obama's campaign insists it can win the state, but no longer claims it will do so.

So far, it's not clear which presidential campaign is likely to be hurt more by the hurricane.

"Mostly ... we are going to ride the storm out and take it day by day," one Obama campaign official said.

On Sunday, Obama emphasized to reporters that his priority is hurricane preparation, not campaigning.

"My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously," he said. "The federal government is working effectively with the state and local governments.  It’s going to be very important that populations in all the impacted states take this seriously. Listen to your state and local elected officials."

INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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