Over 4 million people are without power in the US, with the death toll from Hurricane Sandy still rising. Yet Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have had to return their focus to Tuesday's presidential election.
President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney returned to the campaign trail on Thursday, following a hiatus while Hurricane Sandy battered parts of the country.
Having visited New Jersey's coastline, one of the worst-hit areas, Obama began a tour of four key battleground states, starting in Wisconsin.
"When disaster strikes, we've seen America at its best," the Democrat president said. "All the petty differences that consume us all seem to melt away. There are no Democrats or Republicans in a storm; they're just fellow Americans."
The 51-year-old subsequently changed pace, criticizing Romney for hijacking the "change" platform Obama campaigned on in 2008.
"Now, in the closing weeks of this campaign, governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we've been cleaning up after for the past four years – and he is offering them up as change," Obama told supporters in Green Bay. "What the governor is offering sure ain't change. Getting more power back to the biggest banks isn't change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn't change."
Four more years, or five more days?
Romney, meanwhile, was in the "swing state" of Virginia Thursday, telling supporters in Roanoke that four more years of Obama in office would damage the US economy.
"We really can't have four more years like the last four years," the 65-year-old said. "I know the Obama folks are chanting 'four more years.' Our chant is 'five more days!'"
"I don't think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street," Romney said.
"We don't need a secretary of business to understand business; we need a president who understands business, and I do."
Polls still suggest that the race is too close to call, though most perceived the storm-induced interlude in campaigning as a benefit to Obama's re-election drive.
Swing statesman Bloomberg casts his vote
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who defected from the Democrats to the Republicans in 2001 before turning independent in 2007, put his support behind Obama on Thursday in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Writing an editorial in his business-focused Bloomberg news service, the New York mayor said Obama was the better candidate to tackle rising temperatures around the world.
"Our climate is changing," Bloomberg wrote. "And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be - given the devastation it is wreaking - should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
The US Department of Energy said on Thursday that 4.4 million customers in 12 states were still without power, the majority of them in New York and New Jersey.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in consort with aid groups like the American Red Cross, is trying to provide meals, shelter and other services to those displaced by the storm.
Hurricane Sandy is thought to have claimed around 170 lives in total, over 100 of them in the US and Canada.
msh/ch (AFP, dpa, Reuters)