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On Delaware coastal island, gratitude to share after storm

Flood water covers sand dunes beneath beach houses built on stilts, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in South Bethany Beach, Delaware, Oc
Flood water covers sand dunes beneath beach houses built on stilts, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in South Bethany Beach, Delaware, Oc

By Thomas Ferraro

FENWICK ISLAND, Delaware (Reuters) - The usually tranquil beachfront communities along the Delaware shore were prepared for the worst from Hurricane Sandy and as luck would have it, they got something less.

The damage from flooding is limited, compared to what might have been. The cleanup is ongoing. And relief, in the form of disaster assistance, is on hand.

People here are grateful to Mother Nature, to local authorities-and to Barack Obama. Though he did not set foot here, television made him a presence.

"We saw him on TV and were impressed," said Dave McGee, who owns the Frog House Restaurant here.

"I think he really wants to help," added his wife, Patty.

A block away, on Oyster Bay Drive, Chuck Garriott expressed a similar view, praising Obama and New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie for working together on relief efforts.

"It could sway a lot of votes, it could sway the election," said McGee, standing outside his house where rushing water rose two feet before receding. "It might sway me."

"To have a break from the nastiness of the election cycle is refreshing," Garriott said. "I think the way Obama is handling this will help him."

Mary Stevens, who works for neighboring Ocean City, Maryland, promptly replanted an "Obama" sign in the front lawn after moving back into her house.

Stevens refused to play pundit on how the hurricane may impact the election, saying now is the time to focus on the victims, not politics.

But she took a poke at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for having earlier suggested he might abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"FEMA is very effective when administered correctly," said Stevens. "It wasn't under Bush. It is under Obama."

McGee, an independent, and Garriott, a Republican, said while they still aren't sure who they will vote for in Tuesday's election, Obama's swift marshalling of relief, from what they could tell, may help him win a second term.

Others dismissed such a possibility, saying most voters have made up their minds. Others still said it's too early to know.

"I have no idea," said Robert Logan, a retired salesman and backer of Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney.

"It is political suicide if you don't step up," said Garriott, busy clearly out a flood-ravaged garage.

The area got plenty of help from government generally, with more likely to come, as the President declared the region a disaster area even before the storm hit, making victims eligible for aid.

During the evacuation, the National Guard helped secure the town, which is on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Little Assawoman Bay with a year-around population of 379 that reaches 5,000 during the peak of the tourist season.

And many of the residents here have Federal flood insurance.

Barry Kruemmel, a sushi chef, was among those who decided to stay and ride it out.

"It looks like we all learned a lesson from Katrina: Be prepared - the local, state and federal government as well as individuals," said Kruemmel.

Kevin Coyle, a retired Republican state employee, said, "I expect Obama to stand up and deliver. But I don't think it is going to make any difference. People have pretty much made up their mind."

McGee and his wife, Patty, of the Frog House restaurant, said while they are pleased with Obama's hurricane performance they remain disappointed in him.

"The economy is killing us and Barack hasn't done anything about it," McGee said. His wife added, "He said he'd help small business, but we haven't seen it."

They acknowledged, however, that Obama has had difficulty working with Republicans in Congress. They also said they were happy he could step up on his own to confront the hurricane.

"I'm a conservative Republican," said Garriott. "But there are all sorts of reasons why I would consider voting for the president."

Not so for John Barthel, a retired federal worker and Romney supporter. "I'm a Republican. Nothing is going to change my mind."

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro. Editing by Fred Barbash and Todd Eastham)

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