Former President Bill Clinton greeted an enthusiastic crowd at the University of Central Florida in Orlando Monday morning, joking, "I was supposed to be the warm-up man for President Obama today, but that storm on the East Coast had other ideas. You can't imagine how powerful it is. Well, you can. You live in Florida." Clinton told his audience to "keep your fingers crossed for your fellow Americans today."
Nearly 60 million Americans are now in Hurricane Sandy's path, as it is bears down on the East Coast with landfall expected Monday night.
After flying to Florida 12 hours early, the president decided to skip the Orlando event Monday morning and return to Washington to respond to "deteriorating weather conditions in the Washington area." White House spokesman Jay Carney explained the change of plans saying that the storm had picked up speed and intensity overnight. Nearly all commercial flights in and out of the Washington area have already been canceled.
For now, mindful of the danger of appearing too political as the storm hits, the president will leave campaigning to his surrogates. Vice President Biden will stand in for the president at a Youngstown, Ohio rally this afternoon, along with Clinton. The president has also canceled events scheduled for tomorrow in Colorado and Wisconsin. And the Obama campaign has just announced that Clinton will make a swing state sweep this week with events planned in Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has canceled tonight's event planned for West Allis, Wisconsin. Congressman Paul Ryan has also canceled evening events in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida, "out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy."
Campaigning today in Avon Lake, Ohio, Romney encouraged people to donate to the Red Cross, and said, "Our hearts and prayers are with all the people in the storm's path. Sandy is another devastating hurricane by all accounts, and a lot of people are going to be facing some real tough times as a result of Sandy's fury."