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Obama: Sandy a ‘serious and big storm’

President Obama said Sunday that he was confident that the federal government was prepared for Hurricane Sandy, and that the storm would not keep voters from the polls.

Obama, speaking at a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), cautioned that Sandy was a “serious and big storm,” and that there were still some questions about the path of the slow-moving hurricane.

“We don't yet know where it’s going to hit, where we're going to see the biggest impacts and that's exactly why it's so important for us to respond big and respond fast as local information starts coming in,” Obama said, according to pool reports.

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The president made the short trip to FEMA on Sunday, where he met with the disaster relief agency’s chief, Craig Fugate, and other administration officials. 

After being briefed, Obama hopped on a conference call with mayors and governors from up and down the Eastern seaboard, from Virginia to Massachusetts. 

At FEMA, Obama said his main message was that people should take the storm seriously, and he advised residents to listen to local government officials.

“My message to the governors, as well as to the mayors, is anything they need, we will be there,” Obama said.

“And we’re going to cut through red tape.  We’re not going to get bogged down with a lot of rules.”

With just nine days left in this year’s campaign, the president said it was too soon to say if the storm, which is expected to hit the coast Monday night, would have an impact on voting. 

Maryland has already cancelled early voting on Monday, and there has been some concern that a storm that knocks out power for a significant period could make it more difficult for voters to get to the polls. 

"We don't anticipate that at this point, but we're obviously going to have to take a look," Obama said.

Govs. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), Tom Corbett (R-Pa.), Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), Dan Malloy (D-Conn.), Jack Markell (D-Del.), Bob McDonnell (R-Va.), Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) and Deval Patrick (D-Mass.) all joined the conference call with Obama.

The mayors of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Newark – Vincent Gray, Stephanie Rawlings Blake, Michael Nutter and Cory Booker – also participated. 

The approaching storm has already forced the presidential candidates to change their plans, with both Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney cancelling rallies in swing-state Virginia over the weekend.

Meteorologists have dubbed Sandy a “Frankenstorm,” warning it could dump heavy rains and wins over the mid-Atlantic region. As of Sunday afternoon, the storm was at Category 1 strength, with winds at 75 mph, according to reports.