Oct. 29–MANCHESTER — Politics as usual? Not quite. Not by a long shot.
As Hurricane Sandy swept into New Hampshire and the rest of the Northeast, campaign officials in the Granite State on Monday said they’d adjust as necessary but would try to keep their voter contact and outreach as close to “business as usual” as possible in this final frenzied week of campaign 2012.
But in fact, Sandy on Monday played havoc with candidate schedules and grassroots activities.
She showed no favoritism. Her wrath was felt on a bipartisan basis.
As the wind and rains whipped across New Hampshire Monday afternoon, candidates issued “stay safe” messages.
“Please check in on your neighbors,” asked Democratic candidate for governor Maggie Hassan.
“And if you can, consider a donation to our local Red Cross organization,” said her Republican opponent, Ovide Lamontagne.
At various campaign headquarters, officials insisted they would carry on until the power went out or until conditions made their work impossible.
Phone banks were underway, they said, at least for a while.
Door-to-door retail politicking?
No. That obviously was not happening.
Still, one campaign official said that with so many people home from work awaiting the arrival of Sandy, it was actually easier to reach Granite Staters than it would have been on an ordinary late-in-the-campaign Monday.
“We’re eight days out. We’re going hard and making voter contacts, but our first priority is to make sure everyone is safe,” said Tommy Schultz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney’s campaign in New Hampshire.
His comments were echoed by other campaigns on both sides of the political aisle.
WMUR television and the New Hampshire Union Leader postponed Monday night’s scheduled 1st Congressional District debate between Republican Rep. Frank Guinta and Democratic challenger Carol Shea-Porter until Friday,Nov. 2.
A 2nd Congressional District debate between Rep. Charlie Bass and Democrat Ann Kuster was still scheduled to take place on Tuesday night, as was a gubernatorial debate scheduled for Thursday night between Hassan and Ovide Lamontagne.
Widespread power outages could force changes in those event as well.
Ann Romney and Vice President Joe Biden canceled planned Monday campaign visits to New Hampshire and Mitt Romney and Michelle Obama cancelled events in the state scheduled for Tuesday.
Romney had been planning a major rally at the New Hampshire Dome in Milford, while Mrs. Obama planned an event at the University of New Hampshire, which was closed on Monday and will remain closed on Tuesday.
Events large and small fell by the wayside.
– Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen were forced to cancel a tour of the Nashua Child Advocacy Center and the Girls Inc. program in Nashua.
– Lamontagne was planning to go ahead with a mid-day appearance before the Manchester Rotary Club but the Concord Chamber of Commerce canceled an evening event he had planned to attend.
Rep. Charlie Bass canceled a spaghetti dinner Monday night at a church in Newport.
As of mid-afternoon Monday, a Lamontagne-Hassan debate in North Conway debate was still scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The conservative Americans for Prosperity advocacy group dropped plans to have its “Obama’s Failing Agenda Bus Tour” stop in Londonderry, Bedford and Manchester on Monday and Meredith, Salisbury and Hollis on Tuesday.
Guinta told supporters that while his debate with Shea-Porter was postponed, his campaign headquarters “is still a drop-off location for canned food and other supplies, which will then be provided to local service agencies.”
The Republican National Committee/Romney campaign “Victory” operation was also collecting food to be distributed during and after the storm to those in need.
Most campaigns urged supporters to remove yard signs — just until the storm passes, of course.
Romney canceled not only his New Hampshire event but also all events on Monday night and Tuesday in several battleground states.
“Governor Romney believes this is a time for the nation and its leaders to come together to focus on those Americans who are in harms way,” said Rommey spokesman Gail Gitcho.
Schultz said a campaign bus that was to carry Ann Romney in New Hampshire on Monday was sent to “do any disaster relief that’s necessary.
“We’re collecting food donations and supplies at all of our offices (Monday and Tuesday) and we’ll send it out locally,” Schultz said.
Another Romney campaign official said fund-raising in affected states was halted temporarily and “obviously there will be no door-knocking and it will be suspended until it’s safe to resume.”
President Barack Obama did a few campaign events Monday morning before returning to the White House.
After briefing reporters on the storm, he insisted he was “not worried at this point about the impact” of Sandy on the election.
“I’m worried about the impact on families, and I’m worried about the impact on our first responders,” he said. “I’m worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation.
“The election will take care of itself next week,” said Obama.
Obama New Hampshire campaign spokesman Holly Shulman said the campaign was using the Web, Facebook and Twitter to urge supporters to donate to the Red Cross.
“Where’ it’s safe to do so, our historic grassroots organization is running a full speed in Eastern battleground states,” she said. “But of course we urge everyone to take safety precautions.”
At Lamontagne headquarters, spokesman Tom Cronin said at mid-day Monday “we have a full house here now and we’re making our phone calls, but we’re reminding people to be safe.
“We’re doing what we can given the weather,” said Cronin. “There are only a few days left.”
Hassan was meeting with staff and volunteers at the Manchester campaign headquarters at mid-day Monday.
“It’s just something that can’t be controlled,” said Hassan campaign spokesman Marc Goldberg. “Our main concern is to make sure that everyone is safe.”