WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama the candidate stepped aside Monday so the commander in chief could take over.
In the waning days of his re-election bid, the president scrapped two days of campaigning and retreated from the trail. He hunkered down at the White House to oversee the government’s response to the East Coast superstorm — and to project presidential leadership.
“The election will take care of itself next week,” Obama said, speaking to reporters at the White House after hastily flying back to Washington from Florida.
Obama aides insisted that was not only the right decision, but also an easy one. Even with Obama locked in a tight race with Republican Mitt Romney, the president would have risked appearing to put politics over the public’s safety had he pressed on with his travel plans.
“The president has real responsibilities and those responsibilities come first,” said David Axelrod, the president’s chief campaign strategist.
Obama’s response to the storm still had plenty to do with politics. After returning to the White House, Obama walked through the rain straight into the Oval Office. He convened a meeting with top government officials in the Situation Room. And later, he appealed to politically divided Americans to put their differences aside during the storm.
“We look out for our friends, we look out for our neighbors and we set aside whatever issues we may have otherwise to make sure that we respond appropriately and with swiftness, and that’s exactly what I anticipate is going to happen here,” he said.