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U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accepts relief supplies for people affected by Hurricane Sandy at a storm relief campaign event in Kettering, Ohio October 30, 2012. (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accepts relief supplies for people affected by Hurricane Sandy at a storm relief campaign event in Kettering, Ohio October 30, 2012. (BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)

On Sandy, Obama and Romney try to stay above politics – but pundits won’t let them Add to ...

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama may be straining to make it look as if they’re above politics, but some in the press are busy trying to score points for their own view of government or the candidate who best reflects it.

On Monday night, even as entire New York City neighbourhoods were underwater, the Times weighed in with an editorial, posted online, taking Romney to task for his pledge to eliminate part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency?” the paper asked.

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President Obama played his part, staying off the campaign trail and hunkering down in the White House, monitoring disaster response and looking presidential.

But when Mr. Romney quickly re-purposed a “Victory” rally in Ohio on Tuesday into a “storm relief effort,” that brought together about 2,000 supporters to collect foodstuffs and other goods for those in need, the New Republic argued his response still fell woefully short of what was required after a disaster like Sandy:

“As Romney himself conceded at Tuesday’s ‘storm relief event,’ charity can’t solve everything. And yet the degree of confidence he expressed in volunteerism was somewhat striking.” The magazine then quoted Romney saying at the event: “There are lot of people who [are] still going to be looking for goods even if we gathered these things. But one of the things I’ve learned in life is you make the difference you can. You can’t always solve the problems yourself, but you can make the difference in the life of one or two people.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama’s view of the role of government received a huge boost from an unlikely source when New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie, a Republican who gave the keynote address at the GOP’s convention in August, told the Today Show that the President’s support for New Jersey was “outstanding.”

On Twitter, Mr. Christie added: “I want to thank the president personally for all his assistance as (we) recover from the storm.” And as he invited Mr. Obama to tour his devastated state, he lashed out at critics who wondered if he was subtly trying to derail Romney to clear his own path to a 2016 run for the White House. “I don’t give a damn about Election Day after what has happened here,” he tweeted. Using a phrase associated with the Obama campaign, he added that the president, “is instructing Gov’t to lean forward to help.”

That was too much for some Romney supporters. Matt K. Lewis at The Daily Caller asked rhetorically: “The question is whether – with just days left before Election Day – Christie should have gone out of his way to lavish praise on Obama, and to provide him with a terrific photo-op for which to look presidential.”

“Is Christie really saying that the plight of his state today outweighs the seriousness of electing a President of the United States of America for four years?”

Yes, he is.

Follow on Twitter: @simonhoupt

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