Hurricane Sandyâ€™s impact on the East Coast this week gave President Obama a political advantage during the final week of the campaign, Republican strategist Karl Rove said in an interview on Friday.Â
â€śIf you hadn't had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the [Mitt] Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutter in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhere else, to something else, it is not to his [Romney's] advantage,â€ť Rove told The Washington Post.
Rove, who served as George W. Bush's deputy White House chief of staff, said that in the wake of the storm, there are â€śadvantages and a minor disadvantageâ€ť for the president as well as a â€śsubtle disadvantage to Romney.â€ť
â€śObama has temporarily been a bipartisan figure this week. He has been the comforter-in-chief and that helps,â€ť Rove said. The slight disadvantage for Obama, Rove said, â€śis that people in Eastern coastal communities are going to be preoccupied by issues of getting food to eat and having a roof over their heads; some of them won't be thinking as much about the election.â€ť But he conceded that those people reside in the Northeast, and not in the battleground states most likely to decide the election.
Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast late Monday, prompting the president to scrap his campaign schedule through the middle of the week, in order to monitor the storm. On Wednesday, Obama traveled to New Jersey to survey storm damage with Garden State Gov. Chris Christie (R), one of Romneyâ€™s top surrogates. The president resumed his campaign schedule on Thursday.
â€śItâ€™s the October surprise,â€ť Rove said of Sandy. â€śFor once, the October surprise was a real surprise."
Rove also opined on the relative importance of states that appear to favor Obama, but have attracted a late push from Romney and his allied groups. Pennsylvania and Minnesota are in play for Romney, Rove said. In those states, Obama has been leading in the polls, but Republicans have been surging.Â Romney and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) will campaign in Pennsylvania over theÂ weekend.
Rove co-founded the conservative super PAC American Crossroads, which along with its affiliated non-profit Crossroads GPS has vowed to spend $300 million on the election. He said he thinks Romney will win Ohio, but can win the election even without carrying the Buckeye State â€“ something no Republican has ever done. He also predicted a close national outcome on Tuesday.
â€śNationally, it will be a point or two race,â€ť said Rove.
Below is a transcript of the interview: Â
Question: Are Pennsylvania, Michigan and Michigan inÂ play?
Rove: "I see Pennsylvania andÂ Minnesota in play. Michigan is a little further down."
Question: There's a growing perceptionÂ out there that Hurricane Sandy has had a significant effect on theÂ race. Do you think that's accurate?
Rove: "That's absolutely true. ThereÂ are advantages and a minor disadvantage to the President here -- andÂ a subtle disadvantage to Romney. Obama has temporarily been aÂ bipartisan figure this week. He has been the Comforter-in-Chief andÂ that helps. [The slight disadvantage for Obama] is that people inÂ Eastern coastal communities are going to be preoccupied by issues ofÂ getting food to eat and having a roof over their heads; some of themÂ won't be thinking as much about the election..."
"...There's a subtle disadvantage forÂ Romney [in the wake of the hurricane]. For a five-day period, theÂ country Â stopped talking about the presidential campaign really andÂ people were talking only of the mega-storm."
Question: In your view, has Sandy givenÂ Obama a chance to win that he otherwise wouldn't have?
Rove: "Yes. If you hadn't had theÂ storm, there would have been more of a chance for the Romney campaignÂ to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutterÂ in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhereÂ else, to something else, it is not to his [Romney's] advantage."
Question: Can Romney win without winningÂ Ohio?
Rove: "I think he's going to winÂ Ohio.Â .... Yes, he can win without Ohio. ... And,Â Â nationally, it will be a point or two race."
Question: Going back to what you saidÂ Â earlier, it sounds like, in your judgment that Sandy has had aÂ significant effect on this race. That is an interesting point. YouÂ think it's had a significant effect. Is that accurate?
Rove: "Yeah. It's the OctoberÂ surprise. For once, the October surprise was a real surprise."
Question: How does the Allen-Kaine raceÂ look to you?
Rove: "It's tight. How big Romney winsÂ Virginia will probably determine whether [Allen] will win."
Question: What should we make of theÂ Romney campaign trying to put Pennsylvania,Â MinnesotaÂ and Michigan in play? Does thatÂ betray a worry that Ohio is slipping away for Romney, as someÂ observers believe?
Rove: "No. We are just following theÂ strategy of the 2008 Obama campaign, when it was going to states likeÂ North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana, all of which we're going to winÂ this year. You try to reach out. It's the same strategy they used,Â four years ago. But I think we're going to win Ohio."