Presidential

Hurricane Matthew - a leadership test for Trump, Clinton?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton might be facing their toughest test yet.

The presidential candidates, who have never shied away from media coverage, are surprisingly quiet as Hurricane Matthew pounds the swing-state of Florida.

The pause, some say, is a reminder of the possibilities and perils of campaigning during a crisis. Many past presidents and hopefuls have used similar natural disasters to showcase their leadership – or in some cases, their shortcomings.

Clinton’s campaign delayed a planned Florida ad buy on The Weather Channel after facing criticism she was targeting voters in the path of Hurricane Matthew. The $63,000, five-day ad buy to capture support from anxious Florida residents in the path of the deadly storm created an optics problem for Clinton’s team  -- one they have been trying desperately to reverse.

On Friday, the Democratic presidential nominee put out a statement urging people to take the storm seriously.

“If you get an evacuation order, please follow it immediately,” she wrote. “Bring any important documents, medicines, and your pets with you. Listen carefully to instructions from local and national officials.”

Trump’s team has also been trying to look presidential in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. The Trump campaign pulled its negative TV ads and issued a statement that said “nothing is more important than the safety of your family.”

“Our hearts are with all of the people and prayers to the millions in the path of what’s now known as Hurricane Matthew,” Trump said Thursday at a town hall. “You have a great governor, Governor Scott, and you gotta listen because it could be a -- it could be a really, really bad one.”

Both the campaigns and state officials were watching closely how the storm might impact Floridian votes. The storm arrived five days before the voter registration deadline, prompting the Clinton campaign to ask state officials for an extension. Republican Gov. Rick Scott refused, saying "everyone has had a lot of time to register."

Officials were also eyeing the vote-by-mail operation. Vote-by-mail ballots were due to be sent this week, leaving the potential for ballots to arrive just as voters evacuate their homes. At least half of Florida voters typically cast ballots early, either by mail or in person.

Officials said they hope that any disruption to voting would be less severe than with Superstorm Sandy, which struck New Jersey and New York just before the 2012 presidential election and kept many voters away from polls.

Sandy's greater political impact, however, may have been the way President Obama used the moment to his advantage. Obama quickly surveyed the aftermath, receiving a warm welcome from Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and promised millions in aid.

Trump, who is trying to recapture momentum lost in a rocky first debate, practiced his skills in public Thursday night at a town hall in Sandown, New Hampshire. Although his aides called the event a dry run for Sunday, Trump dismissed the notion.

"I said, `Forget debate prep.' I mean, give me a break," said Trump, who mocked Clinton for spending days preparing. "She's resting. She wants to build up her energy for Sunday night. And you know what? That's fine. But the narrative is so foolish."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.