The fast approaching Hurricane Sandy has forced US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney to cancel campaign stops.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney received good news in two key swing states, winning the endorsement in Iowa of the main newspaper, the Des Moines Register, and tying Obama in a newly released poll in all-important Ohio.
But nine days out from the nailbiter November 6 election, all eyes were on Hurricane Sandy and how the potentially catastrophic storm might play out on the neck-and-neck race for the White House.
'Obviously we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe that the more people come out, the better we're going to do,' senior Obama strategist David Axelrod told CNN.
'And so to the extent that it makes it harder, you know, that's a source of concern,' he said.
Democrats desperately need to rally Obama supporters as Romney surged into the lead in national polls following a commanding first debate victory on October 3 and his momentum shows little sign of evaporating.
With the storm due to hit late on Monday or early on Tuesday, Obama and Romney scrambled to revamp their schedules in the hectic final stretch of a campaign that has seen them criss-cross the main battlegrounds on a near-daily basis.
Romney cancelled appearances in Virginia to head for Ohio before the hurricane's arrival, while Obama moved up his planned departure to Florida in order to be back in Washington in time for the storm's landfall.
After attending a church service in Washington as usual on Sunday morning, the president headed to the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a briefing on storm assistance preparations.
'The storm will throw havoc into the race,' Democratic Virginia Senator Mark Warner told Fox News Sunday, as coastal evacuations were ordered in New Jersey and New York and forecasters warned of millions being affected by flooding.
As the storm drowned out media coverage of campaign issues, Obama faced a key test of his leadership under the glare of the election spotlight, raising the stakes on his decision-making on the eve of the cliffhanger election.
Republican party chairman Reince Priebus hit back at claims from Democrats that Romney's momentum was levelling off and argued that key states such as Ohio and Wisconsin were beginning to swing towards the challenger.
Democrats normally do better at early voting and Obama's get-out-the-vote effort in 2008 was phenomenal but Priebus told Fox News Sunday that things were different this time around.
'They're not where they were in 2008. We're far ahead of where we were in 2008. Our ground game is better than their ground game. We are going to do more voter contacts this year than all of 2008 and all of 2004 combined. We have an army on the ground,' he said.