Washington (CNN) -- While the presidential election has topped the news much of the year, it has been pushed aside by Sandy as the storm crashed into the East Coast. Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, their running mates, and backers have pretty much curtailed campaigning, some fundraising and advertising as they wait to see the severity of damage from the storm.
Here are five things to watch for in the storm and its aftermath:
1. Playing the commander-in-chief card
Atlantic City, New Jersey, resident Kim Johnson inspects the area around her apartment building, which flooded on Tuesday, October 30. Large sections of an old boardwalk also were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Nearly 11,000 people spent Monday night in 258 Red Cross-operated shelters across 16 states because of Sandy, the American Red Cross tells CNN. View photos of New York recovering from impact.
Cars float in a flooded parking area on Tuesday in the financial district of New York.
A power line knocked over by a falling tree blocks a street on Tuesday in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Waves break next to an apartment building in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Tuesday.
Workers shovel debris from the streets in Ocean City, Maryland, on Tuesday.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flies over Central Park in New York City.
A man jogs near a darkened Manhattan skyline on Tuesday after much of New York City lost electricity.
Workers clear a tree blocking East 96th Street in Central Park in New York on Tuesday.
Rising water rushes into an underground parking garage in New York's financial district on Monday, October 29.
Taxis drive down a New York street where the power was out late Monday, October 29.
A firefighter speaks to a colleague while surveying damage caused by Sandy on Monday in New York.
Flooded cars line the streets of New York's financial district Monday night.
A truck drives by a flooded gas station in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn on Monday.
A flooded street is seen at nightfall during the storm on Monday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Firefighters evaluate an apartment building in New York that had the front wall collapse during the storm on Monday.
Heavy rains fall in Manhattan on Monday.
People walk through water on the beach near high tide Monday as Sandy approaches Atlantic City.
Two men run down Foster Avenue while dodging high winds and waves from the storm on Monday in Marshfield, Massachusetts.
An emergency vehicle plows through floodwaters on Monday in Dewey Beach, Delaware.
A person tries to cross the street during the storm on Monday in Atlantic City.
A traffic sign warns motorists west of Philadelphia on Monday.
A wall of water makes its way to shore as residents brave the storm Monday in Ocean City, Maryland.
A downed tree and fallen power lines lie over homes Monday on Harvard Street in Garden City, New York.
Two people shoot video along Brooklyn Heights' Promenade on Monday as Sandy approaches landfall.
Work crews push sand from a roadway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, due to storm surge related to flooding on Monday.
Two women battle wind and rain with umbrellas in hand in Philadelphia on Monday.
Kira Brizill leads family members as high tide and winds flood the street on Monday in Freeport, New York.
John Edgecombe II, who is homeless, takes refuge from the rain and wind at a bus stop in Ward Circle in Washington on Monday.
Superstorm Sandy dumped a lot of rain, flooding a part of Greenpoint, Brooklyn
A Pennsylvania Department of Transportation truck slowly drives on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as Sandy approaches Bensalem, Pennsylvania, on Monday.
Buses at Frankford terminal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, sit idle after Mayor Michael Nutter ordered that all city offices be closed Monday and Tuesday due to potential damage from Sandy.
A woman walks down the promenade along the East River in New York City on Monday.
Jillian Webb, left, and Arianna Corso are pelted by wind and sand on Lighthouse Beach in Chatham, Massachusetts, on Monday.
Waves slam into the sea wall in Scituate, Massachusetts, on Monday.
Chris Losordo carries his father, Vin, across a flooded road in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Monday.
A repair truck drives down a flooded street in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Monday.
Superstorm Sandy dumped a lot of rain on West Side Highway in Manhattan, NY.
Floodwaters cover the streets of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Monday.
Multiple waves hit the Cooper's Beach in Southampton, N.Y.
Waves crash against a previously damaged pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as Hurricane Sandy approaches landfall on Monday.
High winds broke part of a crane boom on this building under construction in Manhattan, causing several nearby buildings to be evacuated.
An emergency vehicle drives down Cape May, New Jersey's flooded Ocean Avenue on Monday.
A young boy runs along Rockaway Beach in the Queens, New York, on Monday.
A woman examines her storm-damaged porch as heavy rain continues to pour in Winthrop, Massachusetts, on Monday.
A lone figure makes his way down Seventh Street in Lindenhurst, New York, on Monday.
People brave high winds and waves in Winthrop, Massachusetts, as Hurricane Sandy moves up the coast on Monday.
A tree felled by the storm blocks Kramer Drive in Lindenhurst, New York, on Monday.
Waves crash over a street in Winthrop, Massachusetts, as Hurricane Sandy comes up the coast on Monday.
A police vehicle drives through a flooded area in New York on Monday.
The New York skyline is seen from the bank of the East River on Monday.
People walk on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, on Monday.
A man stands on the beach as heavy waves pound the shoreline Monday in Cape May, New Jersey.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol building is seen through a window as heavy rain hits Washington on Monday.
A member of the press takes a photo of a flooded street on Monday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
A man takes a picture of the storm with his phone from the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, on Monday.
A man stands on the sidewalk Monday as a vehicle drives up a flooded street in Atlantic City.
The Hudson River comes over the sea wall along the West Side Promenade in the Battery Park area in New York on Monday.
The owner of the Wilton House locks up his bar on Monday in Hoboken, New Jersey, as Hurricane Sandy approaches the area.
Two people stand near the edge of the boardwalk on Monday in Ocean City, Maryland.
People fight against the wind along Brighton Beach in New York on Monday.
A jogger runs along the East River in New York on Monday as a police car secures the area.
A man watches as the tidal surge pounds a pier in Ocean City, Maryland, on Monday.
A street on the shoreline of Milford, Connecticut, floods at high tide as Hurricane Sandy approaches on Monday.
A sailboat smashes on the rocks after breaking free from its mooring on City Island, New York, on Monday.
A lone tourist stands in Times Square early Monday as New Yorkers brace against Hurricane Sandy.
A satellite image taken at 12:25 p.m. ET Monday shows Sandy moving over the Northeast.
A restaurant on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is boarded up in preparation for the bad weather on Monday.
A man walks down a flooded street in Atlantic City on Monday before the hurricane makes landfall.
Tourists wear plastic ponchos in Times Square on Monday.
Air Force One arrives at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. President Barack Obama canceled his appearance at a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, and returned to Washington to monitor the response to Hurricane Sandy.
A road leading to casinos in Atlantic City is empty before the hurricane makes landfall on Monday.
Obama steps off Air Force One on Monday after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base.
A truck moves north on South Long Beach Avenue as rising water and wind ahead of Hurricane Sandy flood the area on Monday in Freeport, New York. The storm, which threatens 50 million people in the eastern third of the United States, is expected to bring days of rain, high wind and, in places, heavy snow.
An overhead sign on the Southern Parkway alerts motorists to road closings in Wantagh, New York, on Monday.
A truck fights its way through water on a road in Southampton, New York, on Monday.
Andy Becica watches the heavy surf from Hurricane Sandy wash in Monday at Cape May, New Jersey. The full force of Hurricane Sandy is expected to hit the New Jersey coastline later Monday.
Water forced ashore ahead of the hurricane starts to flood Beach Avenue in Cape May on Monday morning.
A tattered piece of a billboard blows in the wind Monday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Water floods a street in Atlantic City.
An ambulance maneuvers through water on Rockaway Beach Boulevard in Queens as the weather sours Monday in New York City.
People pose for pictures on the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday.
A wave crashes over the bow of a tugboat in New York Harbor on Monday.
Cape May Lighthouse shines over the heavy surf.
Dark clouds cover the skyline of Manhattan early Monday.
A satellite image shows Hurricane Sandy at 8:25 a.m. ET Monday. Forecasters warned that Sandy was likely to collide with a cold front and spawn a "superstorm" that could generate flash floods, snowstorms and massive power outages.
People stand on the beach watching the heavy surf caused by the approaching hurricane on Sunday in Cape May.
Sean Doyle of Levittown and Andrew Hodgson of Hicksville pull their boat from Long Island Sound on Sunday at Oyster Bay, New York.
With Hurricane Sandy approaching, the Long Island Railroad announced the suspension of service at 7 p.m. Sunday in Hicksville, New York.
Lisa Cellucci holds her umbrella as it is blown backward by Hurricane Sandy's winds as her friend Kim Vo watches on Sunday in Cape May.
People look at the surf as high winds and heavy rain from Hurricane Sandy arrive in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Sunday.
A construction worker covers air vents Sunday to try to prevent the New York subway system from flooding by Hurricane Sandy. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a shutdown and suspension of all subway, bus and commuter rail service in response to the storm.
Residents of Long Beach, New York, fill sandbags on Sunday in preparation for the storm.
A satellite image from 10:10 a.m. ET on Sunday shows Hurricane Sandy in the Atlantic Ocean grazing the East Coast.
A man surfs at Rockaway Beach in Queens as Hurricane Sandy approaches Sunday.
Scott Davenport brings plywood to cover the windows at the Trump Plaza casino on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Sunday.
Bob Kaege takes a measurement while boarding up a shop in Cold Spring, New Jersey, on Saturday as Marie Jadick speaks on the telephone getting an updated weather report in preparation for Hurricane Sandy.
Houses are flooded in the neighborhood of La Javilla in Santo Domingo, the capital of Dominican Republic, on Friday.
Residents watch firefighters battle a blaze in Kingston, Jamaica, on Friday. The fire, which destroyed the home, was started by a faulty generator that was triggered when Sandy caused a blackout, firefighters said.
A motorcyclist rides through a flooded street Friday in Petit-Goâve, Haiti, where three overflowing rivers put homes and farms under water.
Corey Hutterli works on securing his sailboat as the outer bands of Hurricane Sandy are felt in Miami Beach, Florida, on Thursday, October 25.
A woman stands at the entrance of her house surrounded by flood water after heavy rain in Santo Domingo on Thursday.
People walk on a flooded street after Hurricane Sandy hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday.
Burt Myrich boards up a home in preparation for Hurricane Sandy on Saturday in Cape May, New Jersey.
A woman peers out the door of her house Thursday after it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Bayamo, Cuba.
A man clears debris from his house on Thursday. It was demolished by Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba.
Residents in Bayamo, Cuba, try to fix a house damaged by hurricane Sandy on Thursday.
A U.N. peacekeeper on Thursday stands at the edge of a bridge that was washed away by heavy rains from Hurricane Sandy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
A house ruined by heavy flooding from Hurricane Sandy sits abandoned in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday.
Men deal with downed tree branches after heavy rain caused by Hurricane Sandy in Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday, October 24.
Students walk in floodwater from Hurricane Sandy's rain in Santo Domingo on Wednesday.
Citizens of Bayamo, Cuba, buy food on Wednesday, as they prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.
Waves hit the coast in Santo Domingo on Wednesday.
Citizens of Bayamo talk on the sidewalk on Wednesday.
People in Bayamo hold umbrellas as they purchase food Wednesday before the arrival of the hurricane.
Jamaicans shelter themselves from the rain of approaching Hurricane Sandy as they walk along the Hope River on Wednesday.
The Hope River begins to swell with rain from approaching Hurricane Sandy in Kingston on Wednesday.
Houses sit along the Hope River in Kingston on Wednesday.
A satellite view shows Hurricane Sandy's position on Wednesday.
Photos: Sandy's destructive path
Obama hurricane warning: 'Please listen'
How Romney, Obama adjust to storm
Presidential politics and the storm
President Barack Obama canceled his appearance at a campaign event in Florida on Monday to return to Washington to monitor the federal government's preparation and emergency response for the hurricane.
Soon after his arrival back at the White House, the president spoke to reporters in the briefing room.
Asked how the storm would impact next week's election, Obama said, "I am not worried, at this point about the impact on the election. I'm worried about the impact on families and I'm worried about the impact on our first responders. I'm worried about the impact on our economy and on transportation. The election will take care of itself next week."
Before leaving for the abbreviated campaign visit to Florida a day earlier, Obama stopped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an update on preparations for the coming storm and told reporters that, "it's so important for us to respond big and respond fast as local information starts coming in."
Call it the power of incumbency.
"The beauty of being a president and a candidate is that when a monster storm stalks up the East Coast, you can run over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and be seen as a president on the job, which also works if you are re-applying," said CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "State of the Union."
But there can also be a downside for the president: If the federal government's response to storm damage is deemed slow and inefficient (remember Hurricane Katrina?), Obama may pay a political price just days before the election.
President George W. Bush's approval rating never recovered from Katrina, and that was a contributing factor in his party's defeat at the polls 15 months later in the 2006 mid-term elections.
2. Romney low profile, but for how long?
About three hours after the president canceled his appearance at a campaign rally in Florida and hopped on Air Force One to Washington, the Romney campaign announced that the Republican nominee would cancel his event Monday night in Wisconsin.
The campaign also announced that Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, would cancel events Monday in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida, and both candidates' events for Tuesday were also being scrapped.
"Out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy, we are canceling tonight's events with Governor Romney in Wisconsin and Congressman Ryan in Melbourne and Lakeland, Florida," Romney Communications Director Gail Gitcho said in a statement to reporters just before noon ET on Monday.
And on the campaign trail Sunday and Monday before he suspended campaigning, Romney continuously mentioned those in harm's way of Sandy.
"On the eastern coast of our nation, a lot of people are enduring some very difficult times, and our hearts and our prayers go to them as we think about how tough it's going to be there," Romney said at a rally in Avon Lake, Ohio. "So I'd like to ask you who are here today to think about making a contribution to the Red Cross or to another relief agency, to be of help if you possibly can in any way you can imagine to help those who're in harm's way."
The optics are easy to understand. Campaigning does not look good while millions of East Coast residents are getting pounded by what may end up being a very devastating storm.
"Just the forecast of a potential disaster can make politics look small," Crowley added.
Both campaigns stopped sending fundraising emails to supporters in the states affected by the storm, and the Romney campaign announced that in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia, it was collecting supplies at its campaign offices to help local storm relief efforts. In Virginia, the campaign was loading storm-relief supplies onto the Romney bus to be delivered.
While he can't compete with a sitting president leading the federal government's storm response, Romney did reschedule a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio Tuesday and is transforming it into a disaster relief event.
3. Knocking the final campaign ad assault off the air
It's as simple as this: If the storm knocks out your power, you can't watch TV.
Both campaigns are planning to spend tens of millions of dollars on a final assault of campaign commercials. But Sandy could knock those plans off the air in such battleground states as Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and the lean Obama-state of Pennsylvania, which are all in the storm's path. And while it won't get a direct hit, battleground Ohio will also feel the wrath of Sandy.
"In areas without power and thus without either TV advertising or TV news, the race is likely to be frozen in place," said Elizabeth Wilner, vice president at Kantar Media/Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ad spending on broadcast and national cable TV.
But she said it was rare for an entire media market to be without power, so advertising would continue in those markets with both campaigns hoping for a restoration of service as soon as possible.
Wilner adds that the campaigns may be forced to go heavier on the ground, or do more radio or print ads, in order to reach areas that remain without power well into the week.
4. Will the storm stifle early voting?
The answer is yes, but not in states that are in play. Maryland and the District of Columbia suspended early voting Monday because of Sandy. But the president is expected to easily carry both.
The storm did impact some early voting in some of the eastern portions of the swing state of North Carolina, and could put a damper on some early voting in northern and eastern Ohio. And in the battleground state of Virginia, which allows limited absentee voting in advance of Election Day, some counties Monday canceled such in-person absentee voting.
If the storm does put a dent in early voting, the Obama campaign would feel the bigger impact, as it seems to rely more on pre-election day voting than the Romney campaign.
"Obviously we want unfettered access to the polls because we believe that the more people come out, the better we're going to do, and so to the extent that it makes it harder, you know, that's a source of concern," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod said on "State of the Union."
5. Pulling the plug on polling
With just a week to go until Election Day, expect a flood of final polling. Or maybe not.
The storm is washing out some polling organizations' plans. Both Gallup and Investors Business Daily/TIPP announced Monday that they were temporarily suspending their daily national tracking polls. And in some of the states directly impacted by the storm, polling may become much more difficult, as Sandy knocks out phone lines and some cell service.