Storm damage versus the campaign trail

From Detroit, Michigan –

It will be interesting to see if Wednesday becomes a pivotal day in the campaign for the White House as President Obama goes to New Jersey to tour damage from Hurricane Sandy and Republican Mitt Romney resumes full campaigning with three stops in Florida.

The White House made clear what this trip will look like, saying “the President will travel to New Jersey where he will join Governor Christie in viewing the storm damage, talking with citizens who are recovering from the storm and thanking first responders who put their lives at risk to protect their communities.”

With millions still in the dark and all kinds of damage in and around the New York City area, this visit will get a lot of attention from the news media and the TV networks; I would fully expect a sidebar story on the Obama-Romney contrast that gets pointed.

Whether it turns into something more than partisans on both sides trying to score points about what their candidates are or are not doing, that’s the unknown at this point in time.

The game plan seemed pretty clear on Tuesday when my email inbox was clogged with messages from Democrats denouncing Romney on anything that even seemed related to emergency storm disaster aid.

“Romney wants to cut FEMA,” boomed one email.

“Romney vetoed flood control money for city that later flooded,” read another.

Look for Democrats to attack on those lines today, especially as Romney gets back on the campaign trail and the President sees the storm damage first hand.

The decision by Mr. Obama not to go on the campaign trail on Wednesday means that from Friday of last week, the President has not campaigned five of the last six days.

Mr. Obama’s remaining campaign schedule is in flux, but with Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday left – that’s only five days to barnstorm the swing states.

WHO IS STRONG AND WHO IS NOT

In these final days before Election Day, both sides are lobbing attacks at each other over what states could be vulnerable to a late rush by one side, or whether certain actions just show that they are playing defense.

For example, Romney’s trip to Florida today is being derided by Democrats who said it is proof that the GOP doesn’t have Florida locked up; one would assume the President will be back in Florida, but we have yet to see his schedule up until Election Day.

Another example is the Obama campaign starting to run ads in states like Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania; Republicans say that shows the Obama campaign is worried.

Ohio seemingly remains the big battleground, as Romney will be back there in coming days; the President was scheduled to be in the Buckeye State Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before Hurricane Sandy put a crimp in those plans.

Also getting a lot of play are four states that have not been in a lot of conversations in recent months – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota.

Democrats claim they aren’t worried about Romney buying ads in Pennsylvania or GOP Super PAC’s doing the same, but now Obama is buying ad time in Pennsylvania as well.

Democrats say they’re not worried about Minnesota, but they are buying ad time, and Bill Clinton was there yesterday; so was Paul Ryan, who stumps in Wisconsin today.

Both parties are putting a little more gusto into Wisconsin, as those 10 Electoral Votes are a must for Romney if he can’t win Ohio.

But everything changes in the election math if Romney could somehow win in Pennsylvania or in Michigan, where Mr. Obama is buying late advertising time also, to offset spending by pro-Romney Super PAC’s.

Is Michigan really in play? It doesn’t seem like it to me, but there was a poll out by the Detroit News on Tuesday which had the President ahead by only three points.

In recent days, the Super PAC Restore Our Future has basically forced the hand of the Obama campaign, which decided it could not let ads go unanswered in Michigan just before Election Day.

Restore Our Future is now running over $20 million in ads in eight states, with just over $2 million buying ad time in Michigan.

Is it money well spent? Or just a lot of noise? We will know next week for sure.