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The president on Tuesday also held a conference call with the governors of 12 affected states, from North Carolina to New Hampshire, and the mayors of seven cities, from the District to New York. Mr. Obama pledged to help utilities restore electricity and later visited a local Red Cross office and told workers there, “America is with you.”

After the Bush administration took a beating for mishandling Hurricane Katrina, politicians are acutely aware of the danger of doing anything that could be perceived as political when reacting to a natural disaster. Mr. Obama ended up canceling a planned Monday rally in Florida, as well as other events scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, and flew back to Washington as he tried to show he was putting the needs of storm victims first.

The political cease-fire, however, did not extend to Mr. Obama’s aides, who took plenty of shots at Mr. Romney during a conference call with reporters.

“We’re obviously going to lose a bunch of campaign time but that’s as it has to be,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s campaign. “For us, it’s not a matter of optics, it’s a matter of responsibility, and Gov. Romney can decide for himself what he wants to do. The president has real responsibilities, and those responsibilities come first.”