NASHUA, N.H. -- President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney held dueling rallies Saturday along the Eastern Seaboard, but both of their campaigns were scrambling to make schedule changes to avoid Hurricane Sandy just 10 days before voters head to the polls.
Mr. Obama, who has convened a pair of conference calls with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the past two days, has ordered all federal resources be available to help states respond to the powerful storm that is expected to crash into the mid-Atlantic region by the end of the weekend.
The president appeared at a rally with 8,500 supporters Saturday in Nashua, N.H., and he was planning to leave Washington, D.C., again today, a day earlier than initially planned, to beat the storm for a Monday swing through Florida and Ohio. Campaign aides said a planned rally Monday night in Virginia is still on schedule.
White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama is "focused on" storm preparations, even as he continues to campaign.
Mr. Romney rallied 10,000 supporters Saturday in Pensacola, Fla., while his campaign canceled a full day of campaigning scheduled for Virginia in the communities of Sterling, Richmond and Virginia Beach. A Romney aide said the Republican nominee instead will head to Ohio to join his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, on a bus tour across the state.
The schedule disruptions didn't stop the two candidates from again delivering sharply personal attacks on one another Saturday. Mr. Obama used his appearance near Mr. Romney's home state of Massachusetts to accuse him of raising taxes on the middle class when he was governor in the form of a wide range of service fees in order to collect $750 million in revenue.
"There were higher fees to be a barber, a nurse, to get gas, to buy milk, for blind people to get the certification that they were blind," Mr. Obama said, before cracking a joke that played off the birther conspiracy that the president was not born in the United States. "He raised fees on people to get birth certificates, which would have been expensive for me."
Meanwhile, Mr. Romney swooped into Florida's Republican-dominated panhandle to rally his conservative base, charging that Mr. Obama was "shrinking from the magnitude of the times" and pledging to undo much of his first-term record.
Mr. Romney continued his new mantra that he would bring "real change and big change to America," and promised to work across the aisle with Democrats to tackle big challenges such as the growing debt. And, visiting an area heavily populated with active and retired military, Mr. Romney slammed Mr. Obama for mocking him in the last debate over his proposal to add more ships to the Navy.
On the first day of early voting in Florida, Mr. Romney campaigned across the Sunshine State with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Both rallies took on sharply partisan tones.
Introducing Mr. Obama, Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., ridiculed one of Mr. Romney's most memorable debate lines when she told the crowd that New Hampshire "doesn't need 'binders full of women' because we have ballots full of women!"
At Mr. Romney's rally, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., delivered a fiery introductory speech in which he suggested that it was Mr. Obama's fault that U.S. diplomatic workers were killed last month in Benghazi, Libya.
"America deserves a president that will not leave a United States ambassador and three others," Mr. Miller said, as the crowd chanted, "U.S.A! U.S.A!" He added, "Mr. President, the phone rang and you didn't answer it."
Later in the day, Mr. Romney campaigned in Kissimmee, Fla., a swing suburb of Orlando where nearly half the residents are Hispanic, to try to make inroads with a voting demographic that leans heavily in Mr. Obama's favor.