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Romney scraps Virginia campaign swing as Hurricane Sandy nears

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The approach of Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast forced Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to scrap a planned campaign swing Sunday in Virginia, rerouting the GOP contender to the battleground state of Ohio instead.

"I was looking forward to being in Virginia tomorrow but you know the hurricane is headed up there, and I just spoke with the governor, Governor [Bob]  McDonnell, and the governor and I talked about that. He said, you know, the first responders really need to focus on preparation for the storm, so we’re not going to be able to be in Virginia tomorrow, we’re going to Ohio instead," Romney told some 4000 supporters at a rally here Saturday.

The Romney campaign had planned three stops in major markets on Sunday, with rallies in Sterling, Richmond and Virginia Beach, but after canceling the Virginia Beach rally on Friday, the campaign took what an aide said was a "precautionary measure" in cancelling the other two stops. Romney will join his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan for three stops in Ohio Sunday instead.

In Virginia, Romney-Ryan and Victory offices were accepting donations of bottled water and non-perishable food such as beef jerky, granola bars and peanut butter for distribution to relief centers.  

A Romney aide said the campaign planned to reschedule the Old Dominion swing.

Romney urged his Florida supporters, who know something about major storms, to keep thinking about those in the Sandy's path.

"I hope you'll keep the folks in Virginia and New Jersey and New York and all along the coast in your minds and in your hearts," Romney said. "You know how tough these hurricanes can be and our hearts go out to them."

Vice President Joe Biden also canceled a planned rally on Saturday in Virginia Beach, and President Barack Obama changed his travel plans ahead of the storm, leaving for planned campaign events in Florida on Sunday night instead of Monday morning. The Obama campaign has canceled a rally with Michelle Obama in New Hampshire on Tuesday as well, anticipating the effects of the storm may continue even then.

Traveling with Romney on Saturday, Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he wasn't concerned about the electoral effect of the storm on Florida or elsewhere, but was focused on people.

"Our first concern is with the people that are in the path of the storm. Obviously, that is the No. 1 concern," Rubiotold reporters on the Romney campaign plane between stops in Florida. "Beyond that, I haven’t had time to think about what impact it's going to have on the campaign. I think that’s like a secondary concern at this point."