WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to project command in a crisis, President Barack Obama told storm-stricken residents along the East Coast that "America is with you" but warned that the disaster "is not yet over."
As the countdown to Election Day reached the one week mark, Obama immersed himself Tuesday in his official duties. He convened conference calls with state and local officials, held briefings in the White House Situation Room and dropped by Red Cross headquarters in Washington.
"My instructions to the federal agencies has been, 'Do not figure out why we can't do something; I want you to figure out how we do something,'" Obama said. "There's no excuse for inaction at this point."
Obama said there still were risks of flooding and downed power lines and called the storm "heartbreaking for the nation."
The White House also announced that Obama was scrapping a third consecutive day of campaigning and instead would travel to New Jersey on Wednesday to view the devastation from superstorm Sandy. His tour guide was to be New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, a supporter of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Christie's political affiliations, however, didn't stop him from showering praise on Obama for the president's response to the huge storm that battered his state and several others.
"The president has been all over this and he deserves great credit," Christie told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." ''I've been on the phone with him, like I said, yesterday personally three times. He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I need anything, and he absolutely means it. It's been very good working with the president."
With Obama back in Washington, the White House, which had taken a backseat to the presidential campaign for months, suddenly was the hub of activity. Aides described the staff, especially those who had been sidelined by the re-election campaign, as reinvigorated by the challenge of coordinating the storm response.
Obama made phone calls to local officials well into the early morning hours Tuesday. He also convened a conference call with 13 governors and seven mayors in states impacted by the storm.
The officials, speaking in geographical order from south to north, briefed the president on the storm's impact and the status of recovery efforts in their areas. The president played the role of facilitator, trying to arrange for officials in places where the storm's impact was minor to send resources to hard-hit areas.
Obama planned to turn his attention back to campaigning Thursday, with stops scheduled in Nevada, Colorado and Ohio. Campaign officials said the president may try to make up for lost time by adding more events to an already busy schedule this weekend and into next week.
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