Obama to return to election campaign trail after Sandy

Barack Obama will resume campaigning on Thursday following suspension as superstorm Sandy devastated north-east US

President Barack Obama will return to campaigning on Thursday after he put politics aside to spend three days managing the federal response to the superstorm that battered the east coast and Mitt Romney was forced to temper some of his harshest critiques of the president to avoid looking insensitive as people coped with the storm.

Just five days away from the election, Obama and Romney are locked in a tight contest, with both campaigns predicting victory. However, the polls show Obama with a slight edge in nine key battleground states that are neither reliably Republican nor Democratic. The president is not elected according to the nationwide popular vote, but in state-by-state contests that make these states especially important in such a tight election.

The president's advisers insist his break from campaigning had minimal impact on his standing. If anything, it gave Obama a chance to offer the type of comfort and command in a crisis that only a president can deliver.

The storm created headaches for Romney, diverting the public's attention away from the campaign as he was trying to build momentum.

Still, the Democratic campaign is seeking to make up for the lost time with a heavy travel itinerary in the coming days, including rallies Thursday in Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado.

Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said while the president remains focused on the storm recovery, the fact that the election takes place in five days is a "reality" and he will return to the trail to make the case to the American people on why they should return him to the White House for four more years.

The partisan sniping continued this week from the candidates' surrogates and their running mates. Much of it focused on Romney's new television and radio ads in critical Ohio, highly misleading spots that suggest automakers General Motors and Chrysler are adding jobs in China at the expense of workers in the midwestern swing state. Vice president Joe Biden said the spots were "one of the most flagrantly dishonest ads I can ever remember."

Obama's campaign planned to keep pressing its criticism of the ads as it seeks to block Romney's prospects for a breakthrough in Ohio, a state every Republican has needed to win the presidency.

The Republican ticket hasn't backed away from the ad. Running mate Paul Ryan said in a statement that "American taxpayers are on track to lose $25 billion as a result of president Obama's handling of the auto bailout, and GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas."

In fact, Chrysler is adding 1,100 jobs to its plant in Toledo. It's also adding production facilities in China as demand for cars there grows. Because of trade rules, it's easier for companies to build cars for the Chinese market in China. It's also more efficient. Japanese automakers, for example, have plants in the US to meet American demand.

Romney was campaigning on Thursday in Virginia, while Ryan was appearing at events in Nevada and Colorado.

Ahead of campaign events in Virginia, Romney released a web video highlighting a decades-old barbeque chain in Richmond that's shutting its doors. "When president Obama took office there was a lot of hope that things were going to change. Well, he didn't change anything," a woman connected to the business says in the video.

Biden had two events scheduled in Iowa. Obama was starting his day in Green Bay, Wisconsin, making up an event that was canceled earlier in the week because of the storm. He had a rally planned later in Las Vegas, as well as Boulder, Colorado, a heavily Democratic area.

Aides said Obama planned to mention the storm victims in his remarks.

More than 19 million people have already voted in the presidential, either by mail or in person. No votes will be counted until 6 November, but some key states are releasing the party affiliation of those who have voted.

Democrats have an edge in votes cast in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. Republicans have an advantage in Colorado.

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