Storm threat to key US election week

‘Superstorm’ scenario puts millions from North Carolina to Maine on alert.

Hurricane Sandy is swirling towards the US, forcing presidential candidates to adjust schedules and cancel events, the BBC reports. President Barack Obama has held a conference call with emergency chiefs to discuss preparations for the storm, which could hit as early as today. Its sustained winds of 75mph (120km/h) are set to intensify as it merges with a wintry storm from the western US. A number of states key to the election could be hit by a storm that may affect up to 60 million Americans. Hurricane Sandy has already proven to be deadly, with officials blaming the storm for at least 45 deaths, the CNN informs. That figure includes 29 people in Haiti, with four more reported missing. Another 16 were dead in Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Local and state officials have joined meteorologists in trumpeting the storm’s potential breadth and impact, especially if it collides with a cold front from the West to create a “superstorm” that stalls over the Eastern Seaboard for days.

Political storm

Republican candidate Mitt Romney cancelled an event scheduled for Sunday in Virginia, a key election state, because of the weather, and was instead heading to Ohio. President Obama was in Florida on Sunday rather than today, and has cancelled a campaign stop with former President Bill Clinton in Virginia today and a rally in Colorado tomorrow to monitor the storm from the White House, said White House spokesman Jay Carney. Vice-President Joe Biden also cancelled a rally in coastal Virginia to allow for disaster preparations.Early balloting in Maryland saw lines of voters stretching for a number of blocks at some polling stations on Saturday. But despite concerns about Sandy’s impact, with some polls suggesting the contest is a virtual dead heat, both Mr Romney and Mr Obama pressed ahead with campaigning in key swing states on Saturday. Nine states are thought to be too close to call. In New Hampshire, Mr Obama urged his supporters to encourage people to vote early and allow him to finish the job he started. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but New Hampshire and the country has come too far to go back to the policies that got us into this mess,” he said. “All he’s offering is a big rerun of the same policies,” Mr Obama said of his opponent. In Florida, Mr Romney said he stood for “big ideas” that would get America going again, compared to what he called Mr Obama’s “shrinking agenda”.  “The president doesn’t have a plan, he’s out of ideas, he’s out of excuses and this November, Florida is going to make sure we put him out of office,” Mr Romney said to cheers from the conservative crowd in Pensacola.

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