Hurricane Sandy brought the race for the White House to a brief halt, as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney temporarily shifted gears.
With both candidates turning their attention, however briefly, from campaigning to the victims of the historic storm, now is a good time to consider five things to watch for in the final week of the presidential campaign:
1. HOW LONG CAN THEY WAIT? Obama and Romney pull off the campaign trail — with a week to go before Election Day — because of the superstorm, both mindful of needing to put safety over politics. But, with the clock ticking, the longer they're off the road, the more they risk their ability to make a closing argument to on-the-fence voters in a race that polls show is tight.
2. HOW BAD WILL IT GET? The destruction of Sandy on the East Coast has the potential to alter how, when and whether people can vote in the run-up to Nov. 6 and on Election Day itself. The storm also will affect voters in ways that are closer to home, like whether they and their families are safe. The campaign will probably be a background issue for many.
3. DELAYED JOBS REPORT? The superstorm could complicate Friday's scheduled release of the October U.S. jobs report, the final snapshot of employment before the presidential election. Labor Department officials are hopeful they can release the report as scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Friday. But they acknowledged Monday that the storm could cause a delay.
4. WHAT'S ROMNEY'S PATH TO 270? The Republican nominee and his allies are pushing into traditionally Democratic territory of Minnesota and Pennsylvania. But that flirting, along with Romney's increasingly narrow focus on Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, suggested he was still searching for a breakthrough in the Midwest to deny Obama the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory.
5. A POLLING CHALLENGE: With millions on the East Coast potentially affected by floods, lost power or heavy snows from the superstorm, pollsters tracking the presidential race will have a hard time getting voters to answer their phones, if their phones are even working. Gallup suspended its daily tracking poll, according to Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief of the poll, and will make decisions about polling the rest of the week day by day as the storm's effects become clearer.