Meanwhile, Republican rival Mitt Romney, who’s espoused smaller government, repeatedly declined Tuesday to answer questions about whether he’d eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
During a primary debate last year, the former Massachusetts governor said he supported the idea of states and private-sector groups taking over responsibility for disaster relief, adding that he’d “absolutely” shut down FEMA.
“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” he said. “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”
As Sandy barreled down on the largest populations in the United States, his campaign sought to clarify this week that Romney’s emergency management response would include FEMA.
Romney followed Obama’s lead early this week, canceling campaign appearances Monday and Tuesday. He attended a storm relief event in the battleground state of Ohio, helping to load supplies such as diapers and bottled water into a truck – as news cameras watched.
Political observers said politicians learned a lesson when Bush presided over a disappointing federal response to Katrina. The former president saw his negative approval ratings soar, and he never recovered.
“It’s important for a president to pay attention to doing his job and being seen as paying attention to his job,’’ said Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette University Law School poll.
There were signs that Obama was benefiting from the power of incumbency when New Jersey Gov. Christie, a star in Republican circles, made a point of praising the president – repeatedly.
Christie told Fox News that he’d spoken with Obama three times Monday and that the president called the last time at midnight, “asking what he could do.” Obama will join Christie on Wednesday in New Jersey, the hardest-hit state.
“I have to give the president great credit,” Christie said. “He’s been on the phone with me three times in the last 24 hours. He’s been very attentive, and anything I’ve asked for he’s gotten to me. So I thank the president publicly for that. He’s done, as far as I’m concerned, a great job for New Jersey.”
Christie, who gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention this summer on Romney’s behalf, even used the word “forward.”
In a tweet Tuesday Christie said: “On conf call with POTUS discussing post-Sandy cleanup efforts in partnership with the feds. He is instructing Gov’t to lean forward to help.”