As the presidential campaign enters its final days, and with Mitt Romney showing small but substantial polling deficits in key swing states, prominent conservatives are making what appears to be their final gambit of the election: turning Hurricane Sandy into a liability for President Barack Obama.
On Friday night, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Romney surrogate, appeared on "Piers Morgan Tonight" to argue that Obama has fallen short in his response to the superstorm, which ravaged parts of New York and New Jersey this week. In particular, Giuliani argued that Obama was neglecting his duties as commander in chief by continuing with campaign stops in Las Vegas and Ohio after touring disaster areas in New Jersey on Wednesday.
I don't know what the heck [Obama] was doing in Nevada, when people were still being discovered in New York. If I were the president of the United States, I sure wouldn't be flitting around the Midwest and the West. My job would be making sure this thing was followed through to the very end. Maybe the first couple of days he was keeping his eye on the ball, but we've got gas lines now that are a mile long. We've got bodies that are still being discovered. And we've got a president who's playing campaigner in chief.
Several other conservative figures have mimicked that line of attack. Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted:
Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini predicted that the Sandy recovery effort would become a political liability in coming days, much the way Hurricane Katrina did for the Bush administration in 2005:
Meanwhile, conservative website Breitbart.com adorned its front page with a banner headline reading, "New Jersey An 'Apocalyptic Vision' Two Days After Obama Photo Op."
While the recovery effort does remain far from finished, the notion that Obama has ignored it in order to focus on campaigning falls flat under scrutiny. Obama has maintained an active role in the hurricane recovery, even after he returned to the campaign trail, and has routinely been in communication with governors and local lawmakers while flying on Air Force One.
On Friday, responding to severe fuel shortages in storm-affected areas, the White House ordered the Department of Defense to "deliver 12 million gallons each of gasoline and diesel fuel, mostly from commercial suppliers, to staging areas in New Jersey," according to The New York Times. It also authorized the tapping of the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve for the first time.
On Saturday, the president will continue to oversee the federal government's response to Sandy.
Per The Associated Press:
Obama will convene a meeting with his team in the morning, to be joined by telephone by officials including Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate, as well as other members of the Cabinet.
Following the meetings, administration officials will visit storm-damaged communities throughout the affected region to view response efforts firsthand, and make sure necessary resources are being provided.