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Hurricane Sandy: Opportunity for Obama to show steady leadership

President George W Bush was criticized for his ineffective handling of Hurricane Katrina, which left the Louisiana city of New Orleans so severely devastated by wind and water, that it still has not fully recovered.

Hurricane Sandy is predicted to be far worse and is anticipated to hit land in the Eastern parts of the United States on Monday night.

A campaign-wary nation will be getting a reprieve from stump speeches in these coming few days. Sandy’s intensity has put a damper on the presidential campaign and prompted both candidates to reschedule appearances.

President Obama was preparing to leave Sunday to campaign in Florida, but stayed glued to the phone to get disaster relief reports from affected governors and mayors.

Romney’s campaign confirmed cancellation of travel plans to New Hampshire.

Furthermore, there was no mention from the Romney/Ryan camp regarding previous policy statements about defunding FEMA and leaving states to deal with damage from natural disasters on their own.

President Obama has continued to monitor the storm from the White House situation room:

"Anything they need, we will be there," Obama said. "And we are going to cut through red tape. We are not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules. We want to make sure that we are anticipating and leaning forward."

The president has previously signed a number of federal emergency changes for states like Connecticut and New York, which will allow cash-strapped states to qualify for immediate federal aid to cover costs of evacuation, damages, rescue and other services.

Sandy has been described as a freak-hybrid combination of hurricane and nor’easter. It was pinned “frankenstorm” by numerous meteorologists across the country. But CNN announced they would not use the term, due to the serious nature of the storm.

The storm will also have an economic impact as hundreds of flights have been cancelled across the country from the East Coast to the Pacific Northwest, stranding thousands of travelers for an indefinite period of time

Meanwhile, warnings by officials to evacuate or hunker down in a safe place were being ignored in some areas by a few curious people. News cameras were still showing joggers bracing against the wind to run down rain-soaked sidewalks and gawkers trying to see what is going on late Monday afternoon.

“If the public is not following instructions, we could get fatalities that could have been avoided,” said Obama, as reported on CNN, after he declared a State of Emergency in nine states.

Hurricane Sandy is anticipated to hit land like a bowling ball, which could result in deadly waves, winds and associated storm surges. Some experts estimate there could be an unprecedented 15 to 20 million people without power, which is much higher than originally reported.

“I’m not worried about the election,” responded Obama to a press conference question. “I’m worried about people’s safety. I’m worried about the safety of first responders. I’m worried about what this will do to the economic recovery.”

President Obama was expected to work through the night on risk management communications, getting resources positioned and coordinating emergency response efforts between local, state, and federal agencies.

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