LAND O'LAKES, Fla. - The big storm taking aim at the East Coast a little more than a week before the election has scrambled campaign plans, with Mitt Romney ditching Virginia to campaign Sunday with running mate Paul Ryan in Ohio and President Barack Obama moving up his departure for Florida.
In an extraordinarily tight race, Hurricane Sandy has forces the campaigns to toss out carefully mapped-out itineraries as the candidates work to maximize voter turnout while avoiding any suggestion they were putting politics ahead of public safety.
On Saturday, Romney was in Florida speaking of bipartisanship, while Obama tried to nail down New Hampshire's four electoral votes.
The former Massachusetts governor presented himself as a staunch conservative during the Republican primaries but has struck a more moderate tone as he appeals for support from women and independent voters. He promised to "build bridges" with Democrats.
Romney coupled his message with digs at Obama for "shrinking from the magnitude of the times" and advancing an agenda that lacks vision.
Obama, heading to Florida on Sunday night rather than Mondays as first planned, spoke with volunteers at a Teamsters hall in Manchester, N.H., on Saturday. "We don't know how this thing is going to play out. These four electoral voters right here could make all the difference."
Winning the White House takes 270 electoral votes. Obama is ahead in states and the District of Columbia representing 237 electoral votes; Romney has a comfortable lead in states with 191 electoral votes. The rest lie in nine contested states that remain too close to call.
The president adjusted his campaign speech at a Nashua rally to appeal to voters in low-tax New Hampshire, hammering Romney for raising taxes and fees when he led Massachusetts.
Obama accused Romney of running in Massachusetts on a pledge to lower taxes, then making life more expensive for the middle class after taking office.
"All he's offering is a big rerun of the same policies," Obama said.
The candidates worked to lock down every possible early vote without intruding on emergency preparations as the storm's expected track looked to affect at least four of the most competitive states: New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
Obama cancelled appearances in Prince William County, Va., on Monday, and Colorado Springs, Colo., on Tuesday so he could monitor Hurricane Sandy.
He moved the departure for Florida to beat the storm and planned a Monday stop in Youngstown, Ohio, before returning to Washington.
Instead of campaigning in Virginia as scheduled, Romney was set to join Ryan for three stops of his Ohio bus tour. Romney's trip to Florida was timed to coincide with the first day of in-person early voting in a state where 29 electoral votes are up for grabs.
Vice-President Joe Biden cancelled a Saturday rally in coastal Virginia Beach, Va., to allow officials there to focus on disaster preparedness and local security concerns. But he went ahead with an appearance in Lynchburg, which is inland.
Biden said Romney and Ryan are fleeing from their record to appear more moderate than they are. The Republican nominees, Biden said, "are counting on the American people to have an overwhelming case of amnesia."