Lull after storm: Obama, Romney teams clutch at straws in the wind

FP

There's a breathless hush in downtown New York this morning, a mere 48 hours before America's greatest city votes to elect a new president. The fact that it's a Sunday must take part of the blame, but this quiet is much more than the city sleeping in. After all, this is famously the city that never sleeps, but for the second time in 11 years, New York seems bruised and bowed by a force greater than itself.

The hurricane that ravaged America's east coast over the last week has left behind a detritus that even the most resilient New Yorker will take time to absorb. That first view of the Manhattan skyline, on the road from the airport into the city, always has the power to move you except that, this time, the taxi ride cannot avoid the potholes that seem to have developed overnight as a result of the surging waters.

Even the memorial to the victims who perished in the World Trade Center bombings on September 11, 2001, is closed. Disaster management teams are pumping out water from the memorial and sewer holes have been opened so that the large pipes can directly flush the water back into the underground sewage system. Water to water, dust to dust, a double whammy requiem to the dead and a reminder to the living: let's not take New York for granted.

The Hispanic man selling 'We shall never forget' magazines outside the memorial says he was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the planes struck that morning. "I never came back here all these years... I only came back when they took Osama bin Laden out," he says.

As for the man responsible for taking bin Laden out last year, Barack Obama, he is on a whirlwind tour of America's so-called "swing states" over these last 48 hours, hoping to make that last push that will return him to the White House. His challenger, Republican Mitt Romney, isn't letting go either. At a rally in Iowa on Saturday, Romney pulled no punches, pointing out that Obama had been so obsessed with his reform agenda that he had never really been able to fend off the economic crisis and high unemployment figures (7.9 per cent over the weekend).

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