Hurricane Sandy scrambles campaign schedule, Romney cancels Virginia rallies

Mitt Romney has cancelled all of his Sunday rallies in Virginia as a precaution ahead of Hurricane Sandy moving closer to the East Coast, the campaign said Saturday.

The Republican presidential nominee will instead campaign in Ohio with running mate Paul Ryan.

Campaign officials told Fox News the decision was made after consulting with Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and emergency personnel, saying it was a "cautionary move to make sure emergency resources would not be diverted."

Romney was scheduled to appear first at a noon rally in Haymark, then a late afternoon event in Richmond, followed by an evening one in Virginia Beach.

Romney will join Ryan's bus tour first in Celina, Ohio. They will then campaign together in Findlay and Marion.

“I was looking forward to being in Virginia tomorrow,” Romney said during an early evening rally in Kissimmee, Fla. “The governor and I talked about that. He said the first responders really need to focus on preparation for the storm. … But 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 was joined in Florida by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who riffing on  Obama supporters’ chant of “four more years” by helping lead a crowd in cheering “ten more day” – the amount of time before Election Day.

Sandy -- upgraded to a Hurricane again Saturday just hours after forecasters said it had weakened to a tropical storm -- was barreling north from the Caribbean and was expected to make landfall early Tuesday near the Delaware coast, then hit two winter weather systems as it moves inland, creating a hybrid monster storm.

Even at this late date in the campaign, neither the Romney nor Obama campaigns wanted to risk the appearance of putting politics ahead of public safety.

The president pressed on with a campaign trip Saturday to New Hampshire but held a conference call with administration officials about emergency preparations from aboard Air Force One.

“Ten days, New Hampshire,” Obama  said at rally in Nashua.  “Ten days and you’ll be stepping into a voting booth and making a defining choice about the future of our country.  Not just a choice between two candidates or two political parties, it is a choice between two fundamentally different visions for America.”

The president also attacked Romney’s record as governor of neighboring Massachusetts, saying he essentially raised taxes by increasing fees on such things as permits and licenses.

Campaign spokesman Jennifer Psaki said the Obama team is continuing to promote early voting as something that provides flexibility for busy families but she added that "safety comes first and that's the case with early voting as well."

However, a rally Saturday with Vice President Joe Biden in Virginia Beach was cancelled. Officials said the decision was "taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure that all local law enforcement and emergency management resources can stay focused on ensuring the safety of people who might be impacted by the storm."

Though none of Obama's campaign stops have been canceled, the president did adjust his travel schedule slightly. The campaign moved up his planned Monday departure for Florida to Sunday night to beat the storm.

One prominent Romney supporter, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., said Saturday he told the campaign he couldn't travel on Tuesday because he wanted to keep tabs on the storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.