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Hurricane Sandy liveblog: Obama says government will respond 'big and fast' (+video)

President Obama met Sunday with Federal Emergency Management Officials in Washington. 'We will cut through red tape,' he said. 'We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules.'

By Staff writer / October 28, 2012

President Barack Obama with Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino (L) and Administrator William Craig Fugate (R), urges Americans to take safety measures after a briefing about Hurricane Sandy.

Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

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Sunday Oct. 28 3:20 p.m.

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President Obama’s comments Sunday, plus how Hurricane Sandy is affecting Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns. From Associated Press reports.

President Barack Obama said Sunday that the storm taking aim at the East Coast is a "serious and big storm" that will be slow-moving and might take time to clear up. The government would "respond big and respond fast" after it hits, he said.

Obama met with federal emergency officials for an update on the storm's path and the danger it poses to the Mid-Atlantic and New England.

"My main message to everybody involved is that we have to take this seriously," Obama said. He urged people to "listen to your local officials."

The president said emergency officials were confident that staging for the storm was in place.

Obama made the comments after a briefing by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials that was led by Administrator Craig Fugate. The group participated in a conference call with governors from states in the storm's path. The president also met with FEMA workers and thanked them.

"My message to the governors as well as to the mayors is anything they need, we will be there, and we will cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules," he said. "We want to make sure we are anticipating and leaning forward into making sure that we have the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama frantically sought to close to the deal with voters in the precious few days left in an incredibly close race as this year's October surprise – an unprecedented storm menacing the East Coast – wreaked havoc on their best laid plans.

Ever mindful of his narrow path to the requisite 270 electoral votes, Romney looked to expand his map, weighing an intensified effort in traditionally left-leaning Minnesota. Obama sought to defend historically Democratic turf as the race tightened heading into the final week.

Wary of being seen as putting their political pursuits ahead of public safety, the two White House hopefuls reshuffled their campaign plans as the storm approached. Both candidates were loath to forfeit face time with voters in battleground states like Virginia.

"The storm will throw havoc into the race," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

Obama canceled campaign stops Monday in Virginia and Tuesday in Colorado to monitor the storm but planned to go forward with other events Monday in Florida and Ohio, with former president Bill Clinton at his side. Romney nixed three stops in up-for-grabs Virginia on Sunday, opting instead to campaign with running mate Paul Ryan in Ohio before heading Monday to Wisconsin, where the former Massachusetts governor has chipped away at Obama’s lead.

"Let's today when we get home put in our prayers the people who are in the East Coast in the wake of this big storm that's coming," Ryan said in Celina, Ohio.

Sunday Oct. 28 12:40 a.m.

Could Hurricane Sandy affect the outcome of the presidential race? Who does this barreling meteorological behemoth help or hurt most, President Obama or Mitt Romney? Mike Allen at Politico.com, one of the best-sourced guys covering politics, muses thusly:

The October Surprise turns out to be a superstorm with the deceptively placid name of Sandy, raising the possibility of another asterisk election if power is out for much of the final week, or even on Election Day, in key parts of Virginia and/or Ohio. Just the frenzy around the forecast could disrupt this week's early voting, which probably hurts President Obama. But he also has an opportunity to be seen as president – a commander-in-chief moment. So no one's sure, but it's a huge topic in Boston and Chicago. Here is the take from some of the smartest people in politics:

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